How White Are We?

Making the statement that nursing is a predominantly white profession raises the question of numbers. What do we mean when we say that our profession doesn’t accurately represent the racial and ethnic make-up of the United States?

Here’s a graph I borrowed from The Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. Their focus in the linked document is increasing diversity in conservation, so I certainly encourage you to visit their site and learn about their efforts if conservation is an interest of yours. That said, this graph depicts the racial and ethnic distribution of the population of the United States in 2012, per the U. S. census bureau.

Population by race 2012

Next, I visited the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, where I pulled demographic data on nursing for 2012 and compiled it into this table:

Occupation White African-American Asian Hispanic or Latino American Indian or

Alaska Native

Hawaiian Native or Pacific Islander Other
Advanced Practice Nurse 89.5 5.2 4 4.4 0.2 NR 1.1
Registered Nurse  

78.6

 

10.7

 

8.8

 

5.4

 

0.4

 

0.1

 

1.4

Vocational Nurse  

68.2

 

25

 

4.1

 

8.2

 

0.7

 

0.2

 

2.4

Nursing Aide  

54

 

37.5

 

5.1

 

13.4

 

1

 

0.2

 

2.3

***Percentages in the table do not add up to 100% because Hispanic/Latina are ethnic groups that may belong to more than one race***

If nursing mirrored the population, our percentages at each level would match the total population percentages shown in the graph, above. What’s interesting to me about this data is that it is clear that we have ample numbers of persons of all races who are willing to the down-and-dirty work of hands-on care. Nursing aides have extremely heavy workloads. The pipeline to professional nursing, though, is clearly more effective for some groups than for others. There is work to be done, friends and colleagues, to make sure that opportunity for advancement in nursing isn’t restricted by race or ethnicity.

TMCN

 

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