On October 23, 2021, the DNPs of Color held their inaugural conference. Nearly 250 DNPs attended the all-day virtual meeting. One highlight of the meeting was a round-table discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in academia. Highlights of the discussion are excerpted below and readers can view the session in its entirety here. The session was moderated by Stephen Ferrara, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, associate dean and associate professor of nursing at Columbia University.
Q: What does promoting diversity mean to you?
Charles P. Buscemi, PhD, APRN, Interim Director, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at Florida International University Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences: I promote diversity from the lens of a gay Latino man, but I also consider myself as an ally to people of color. As a gay Cuban American, I understand how I can use my privilege as a white man to uplift those who need to be uplifted.
I’m in the midst of launching our DEI committee at our College of Nursing at Florida International University. Because of my work, I understand that I need to frame this initiative as equity and diversity for those who have been historically marginalized and misrepresented and not just see things from the lens of who I am.
Once DEI is established in the academic arena, we need to start infusing it into our curriculum. There are so many things that are lacking in our textbooks and curriculum that misrepresent not only people of color, but also gay men, LGBTQ+ individuals, transgender women, and transgender men. The idea is to disrupt and dismantle the norm and make diversity equity and inclusion the norm.
Kellie Bryant, DNP, WHNP, CHSE, assistant dean of Clinical Affairs and Simulation and associate professor at Columbia University: I think about it in multiple different ways. Patients want to see people who look like us provide their care. We have a vested interest in those patients. We understand their culture and some of their values. One example is that research shows the mortality gap among Black newborns is decreased by 50% in those who have Black pediatricians.
When it comes to education, students want to see faculty who look like them. In terms of curriculum, I want to make sure that we are addressing DEI issues when teaching our fellow future health care professionals, because I have a vested interest in making sure that graduates are going to be able to be advocates for health equity and make the change that we so desperately need in our health care system.
Vivienne Pierce McDaniel, DNP, MSN, RN, professor of nursing at Aspen University: What I look at is a diversity of thought. What do these diverse people bring to the table? What are the different thoughts and ideas that these people bring to the table? Diversity enhances creativity and brings innovation. When you have a diverse group of people, problem-solving is different, decision-making is different, and people are more innovative.
Danielle McCamey, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, FCCP, founder, CEO, and president of DNPs of Color: When looking at diversity, we need to make sure we are intentional about seeing who’s in the room and who’s not in the room. Do those at the table have a voice? Also, who’s speaking, who’s making the menu, who’s setting the table, and what messaging is going on there? The value that diversity brings, as Dr. McDaniel said, is creativity and innovation to our clinical practice, to academia, to the C-suite, and to DNPs of Color conferences. When we thought about the DNPs of Color meeting and topics, we always think about diversity in geography. Don’t forget the West Coast folks, because they have a different vibe. Don’t forget the Midwest folks, etc.
Does diversity impact change? Absolutely. When we have multiple thoughts and people from different places, it brings richness to the experience of how we take care of each other and how we see each other. And it brings more of an understanding of humanity as a whole. I think that the impact of that enhances our experiences to build a better, larger, more inclusive vision to move forward in health equity.
Q: Currently, do you see a positive or negative change in promoting diversity and how does this change impact health care delivery?
Dr. McCamey: The murder of George Floyd really ripped the veil off of a lot of people’s eyes. People are seeing things now that a lot of us as Black folk and people of color have seen our entire lives to the point that it’s in our DNA — the traumatic experiences from slavery, oppression, and racism. So it’s positive in that it has given us more light and, as a Black woman, I am more comfortable in saying “that was racist.”
Sometimes I think that it is negative because I feel like some of the DEI efforts are superficial and a way to check off boxes such as:
- We’ve fulfilled our quota with diversifying the C-suite
- We put together a DEI task force
I feel like it has watered down the urgency to commit action to diversify leaders, teachers, preachers, and providers. I’m torn about it. But, I think it is good to have that chaotic spectrum and I hope that we can come towards some pathway in the middle to make some headway to make actions for change
In regards to health care delivery, we all know the literature supports diversifying health care professions, it automatically increases patient outcomes. We understand that patients of color feel more comfortable with providers of color.
Dr McDaniel: Diversity of any group or organization should be a strength and not a weakness. However, since George Floyd was murdered and groups started enhancing their diversity statements, few organizations took the next step to change policies. If you don’t change policies, you can’t hold people accountable for any infraction. We all know that diversity alone does not move the needle toward equity.
When women are hired into male-dominant positions it is thought of as a positive promotion, yet women get paid less, they’re treated differently, and they’re often frowned upon when they get pregnant. On the other hand, men in nursing are often looked upon as the person who is going to lift the heavy patients. We need to have a better understanding of what change entails.
Dr Bryant: I have mixed feelings too. I am optimistic and feel like we are moving forward when it comes to addressing health racism in the health care system. However, why did it take the death of an innocent man for people to wake up when this has existed for so long? Racism just didn’t happen when George Floyd was murdered. So that’s why I have mixed feelings. I guess for me, is it enough?
I also wonder, is it enough? Are we measuring these changes? How many more students of color are being admitted to our nursing programs, how many more people of color are on the C-suite level at hospitals or in politics who are at the level where they can make changes in policies? I want to see the return on investment of all of these changes. That is what I’m waiting for.
I also am worried that conversations around diversity are like a news cycle. There is a news story, it’s a fad, and it dies down in 2 weeks. I can already see this in the news as we hear less and less about racism. We need to keep the conversations going and not back down. This is still a battle that we need to fight for equal justice for all in all aspects, not just health care. I’m optimistic, but we still have ways to go.
Dr Buscemi: We recently had a poll in my college that showed that work needed to be done to establish a DEI Committee. Of course, this prompted me to make sure that I was one of the founders of the DEI committee. I’ve been approached to lead DEI initiatives because of how passionate I am about it. But I’ve always understood the visuals — the face of a white man should not be the face of a DEI initiative. Even though I bring in the Cuban American gay perspective, I have a privilege that many people on this panel will never experience. So I make sure that in any DEI initiative that I’m involved with that those who need to be represented are represented because I think that that’s my role as well.
Q: What are actionable steps that we can take to start implementing DEI initiatives?
Dr Buscemi: One small thing that we all could do right now to promote a more inclusive and safe space is to include pronouns on your Zoom name. It is something I do at all my faculty meetings. Also, call out racism and bigotry right in the moment and call out performative behavior.
Dr Bryant: I bought a simple rainbow heart sticker online and I put it by my office so people know this is a safe space to talk about any kind of issues and to make it more welcoming, particularly to our LGTBQ community.
Also, we need to speak up in meetings when things are being said that are offensive or where policies or procedures are being implemented that we know are racist. We need to be a voice and have the courage to speak up. Also, we need to have representation on all major DEI committees, whether in the hospital or academic setting so that you have a seat at that table.
Dr McCamey: One thing we can start doing today is self-reflecting to see where we are with our own biases, our perspectives, and our lived experience and how it shows up in the way we live, move, work, and manage and care for patients, students, colleagues. Just because I identify as a Black woman or person of color, it doesn’t make me exempt from being biased. Look for opportunities to make yourself better. Truly take time out to self-reflect and show up as your authentic self.
Dr McDaniel: I agree that we first need to examine our own biases and examine how racism lives in each of us as individuals and in the fabric of our organizations, policies, and traditions. Hold yourself accountable for equitable excellence. We just need to learn as much as we can about DEI because it’s not just about racism in America.
Bryant K, Buscemi CP, Ferrara S, McCamey D, McDaniel VP. DOCs at the Table: Promoting diversity, transforming nursing practice. Presented at: DNPs of Color Virtual Conference 2021; October 23, 2021.