The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently apologized for its historic racist practices. But now, nurses of color want to see the ANA take action to amend for past wrongs and to address the racism they continue to experience today.
On June 11, ANA’s governing body voted unanimously to adopt the “ANA Racial Reckoning Statement” that acknowledges the organization’s history of systemic racism and apologized to nurses of color.
“This statement is a meaningful first step for the association to acknowledge its own past actions that have negatively impacted nurses of color and perpetuated systemic racism,” said the statement posted on the ANA website, NursingWorld.org.
ANA said the vote marked the beginning of a racial reckoning journey for the organization.
“As important as it is to reconcile ANA’s history, our path points toward the future and actions that should be taken as a means of holding ANA accountable, continuing reconciliation to repair the breach and becoming a restored association,” the statement continued.
But USA Today reports that nurses of color want to see actions and not just words.
“I applaud what the American Nurses Association has done here. It has been a long time coming. But I am also not really holding my breath," Kechinyere Iheduru-Anderson, a longtime nurse and director of Central Michigan University’s nursing program, told USA Today.
It’s a layered problem that includes experiencing racism from patients, colleagues, and employers.
“A lot of nurses feel profoundly unsupported by their employers, by nursing organizations, and really feel left out to dry in a lot of ways. An apology without action has potential to really fall flat if it doesn't come with action. So that's what I'll be looking to see next from the ANA,” Kristen Choi, a UCLA School of Nursing professor and psychiatric nurse, told the newspaper.
A survey released in January of more than 5,600 nurses found widespread racism in nursing and that’s mainly perpetrated by colleagues and those in positions of power. Over half (63%) of nurses surveyed say that they have personally experienced an act of racism in the workplace.
ANA acknowledged that for five decades, from 1916 to 1964, it “purposefully, systemically and systematically excluded Black nurses.”
“This resulted in Black nurses being denied membership in some state nurses associations,” the statement read. “Despite significant advocacy and pressure from the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), this discrimination persisted.”
Indeed, the nation’s health care profession has many instances of doing harm, including deliberate to Black people in America. The Tuskegee Experiment, from 1932 to 1972, was one of the darkest chapters in that history.
In that study, which took place in Macon County, Ala., doctors denied Black men infected with syphilis in a government-sanctioned medical experiment. Eunice Rivers, a nurse trained at the then-Tuskegee Institute, has said her part of the experiment, was to care for the men and administer their medical check ups. She always maintained that they got care that they otherwise would not have received.