Racism and Prejudice Among Healthcare Workers — by Gay Moore

Providing patient care without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, or religion is a core value of all medical professionals. However, do they extend the same level of tolerance, stand against prejudice, with other members of their profession?

Earlier this year, Lorraine Steele, senior staff writer for the online magazine ‘Nursing Spectrum’ published an article concerning racism among nurses. The magazine received a number of comments concurring that, like society as a whole, racism does exist in the nursing profession, as well as comments from those who disagreed. The readers reported the racism, sexism, ethnic prejudice, and reverse racism toward Caucasian nurses.

Men, working in this female dominated profession, wrote in to talk about being removed from assignments when female patients were reluctant to have a male care for them, which would be unlikely without the racial differences with the patient. Others wrote about being passed over for promotion because of their race and retaliation when they reported discrimination.

Caucasian nurses reported reverse discrimination in diverse practice settings, including being excluded when nurses of other ethnic groups used language other than English among themselves in the practice setting. Currently over 11% of nurses are foreign educated, the numbers are increasing rapidly as the nursing shortage becomes more acute. Ethnic tensions often arise from difficulty communicating with non-native speakers by English speaking personnel, as well as assumptions about the inferior quality of their education.

While not specifically discussed in the ‘Nursing Spectrum’ article, another article quotes a Muslim nurse’s encounters of religious discrimination. Such issues are likely not unique to nurses, but are experienced by those working in every area of healthcare. Their reactions to prejudice, their stories are legitimate concerns about racism, sexism, and ethnic and religious prejudice in the healthcare work place.