There continues to be a need to educate faculty and staff of nursing facilities to cultivate a more culturally diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI)  environment for graduate nursing students of color, researchers noted in a poster presentation at the 2021 DNPs of Color Virtual Conference held on October 23, 2021.1

“The effects of microaggression on satisfaction and symptoms of depression are an additional unneeded burden for graduate nursing students of color,” noted coauthors Aron A. King, MS, RN, and Kupiri Ackerman-Barger, PhD, RN, CNE, FAAN, of the University of California, at Davis.

The purpose of the study was to examine the prevalence of microaggressions among graduate nursing students of color. Microaggressions have been defined as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”2

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Microaggressions are as psychologically detrimental as flagrant discrimination to those of racial minorities, the authors said. The Institute of Medicine suggests diversifying the health profession workforce as a strategy to mediate health disparities as a result of provider prejudice and bias.3

The authors note that students of color experience many stressors in higher education and microaggressions are an additional unneeded burden. “The success of Graduate-prepared nurses of color are particularly important as they have the opportunity to mediate health disparities in roles as primary care providers, nursing educators, nurse leaders, and nurse researchers,” said Mr King. “Often students, myself included, experience psychological and emotional distress as they consideration whether or not to address discriminatory comments or actions. At a time when institutions of higher education are focusing on recruitment of a diverse student body, I believe the attention should focus on the retention of minority students.”

The experience of microaggressions in nursing education has been associated with decreased wellness, including increased depression, and satisfaction among nurses of color, the authors stated. “Although the success of all students is essential, graduated nurses [who have been educated in DEI issues] specifically have the ability to reduce health disparities as educators, care providers, researchers, and leaders,” they noted.

To study microaggressions in nursing schools, the researchers conducted a quantitative cross-sectional study that included the 16-item Racial and Ethnic Microaggression Scale, 2-item Patient Health Questionnaire, and 6 questions to measure participants’ satisfaction with nursing training. The study included 130 nurses (Table 1).  

Table 1. Breakdown of Nurses in the Study by Race (N=130)

96 White96
18 Asian18
8 Black8
3 American Indian or Native Alaskan3
3 Native Hawaiian or Pacifica Islander3
a8 of the nurses also identified as Hispanic or Latino

The study authors reported no significant difference in the number of self-reported microaggressions between non-Latino White students and students of color. The data analysis, however, indicated that there was “an inverse association between the greater self-reported experience of microaggression and lesser satisfaction with graduate nursing training,” the study authors reported. The data analysis also showed a positive association between the “greater self-reported experience of microaggressions and greater symptoms of depression.”

The study demonstrates the need for continued education for faculty and staff of nursing institutions to create a more culturally inclusive environment, the researchers concluded. The addition of a curriculum that focuses on DEI will not only support the success of nursing graduate students of color but also will benefit all students by increasing diversity, which will lead to a more culturally competent workforce.


1. King AA, Ackerman-Barger K. Microaggressions: a weight on the success of graduate nursing students of color. Poster presented at: DNPs of Color Virtual Conference 2021; October 23, 2021.

2. Garibay JC. Diversity in the classroom. UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development. 2014;10-13.  Accessed October 27, 2021.

3. Institute of Medicine. 2004. Smedley BD, Butler AS, Bristow LR, eds. In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health-Care Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004. doi:org/10.17226/10885.