February 16, 2022

63% of Nurses Say They've Experienced Racism in the Workplace, According to Survey

63% of Nurses Say They've Experienced Racism in the Workplace, According to Survey

A new national survey by National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing (the Commission) has revealed the troubling statistic that nearly half of nurses surveyed reported widespread racism within the nursing profession. 

What the Survey Found

The survey, which was done by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing (the Commission), surveyed over 5,600 nurses from October 7-31, 2021, to reveal troubling findings on racism within the nursing industry that included:

  • 57% of nurses said they have challenged racism in the workplace.
  • 63% of nurses said they have personally experienced an act of racism in the workplace with the transgressors being either a peer (66%), patients (63%), or a manager or supervisor (60%).
  • 69% of Hispanic respondents reported personally experiencing racism. 
  • 73% of Asian nurses reported experiencing racism. 
  • ½ of all nurses surveyed said there is “a lot” of racism in nursing. 
  • Black nurses most often experienced racism at the hands of a leader (70%), followed by their peers (66%) and finally, patients (68%). 
  • Black nurses were the most likely to report experiencing racism, with 92% of Black nurses responded reporting personally experiencing racism. 
  • More than 50% said efforts to challenge racism have had no impact in the workplace. 

Some of the stories from the nurses surveyed are heartbreaking, with RNs being called derogatory terms and feeling left out of career advancement: 

“I have felt as if there was no way I would advance my career at some facilities due to my race. This has caused stress, anxiety, and some depression.”

“I have been called the ‘n’ word by multiple patients on multiple occasions… I have been called ‘colored’ by a nurse manager.”

In fact, over three-fourths of Black nurses surveyed reported that experiencing racism in the workplace has negatively impacted their professional well-being.

A Path Forward

American Nurses Association (ANA) President Ernest J. Grant, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, and Commission Co-Lead commented on the survey, revealing that he and his colleagues have been deeply affected by them. 

“My colleagues and I braced ourselves for these findings. Still, we are disturbed, triggered, and unsettled by the glaring data and heartbroken by the personal accounts of nurses,” he said in a statement. “We are even more motivated and committed to doing this important work justice. Racism and those individuals who do not commit to changing their ways but continue to commit racist acts have absolutely no place in the nursing profession.”

“Structural and systemic practices that allow the racist behaviors of leaders to continue to go unaddressed must be dismantled,” said Commission Co-lead and National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) President and CEO Martha A. Dawson, DNP, RN, FACHE. “As cliché as it sounds, it starts at the top. Leaders must be accountable for their own actions, set an example for their teams and create safe work environments where there is zero-tolerance for racist attitudes, actions, behaviors, and processes. Leaders must also create a climate that gives permission and support to dismantle institutional policies and procedures that underpin practice inequities and inequalities.” 

In addition to hosting events, providing education and training, and implementing policies aimed at ending racism, the Commission also recently proposed a new definition of racism itself, noting that “words matter” and that setting a baseline for what racism actually is is paramount to solving the issue. The Commission now defines racism as: 

“Assaults on the human spirit in the form of biases, prejudices, and an ideology of superiority that persistently causes moral suffering and perpetuate injustices and inequities.”

Nurses Speak Out

The survey also reported that, overwhelmingly, Black nurses were most likely to call out racism in the workforce, and the same held true on social media, where nurses shared stories of the subtle and outright blatant acts of racism they have experienced at work after the survey findings were released. 

“As an ICU nurse for 14 plus years… I get called the nursing assistant frequently!!!!” wrote @likitia_b. 

“I know if we told our stories on a public platform the world would be shocked how segregated, hostile and racist nursing is,” said _blkgirlmagicrn

Many nurses of color also expressed frustration over trying to get into specialty areas such as ICU and critical care or even switching to day shift from night shift. 

Source: Instagram/@nursenacole

Other nurses expressed fear that the issue of racism will only add to the difficulties that the nursing profession as a whole is facing. If nurses are already burned out, overworked, short-staffed, and taken advantage of, racism as a deeply ingrained issue is another issue that might feel insurmountable for new nurses and grads entering the profession. 

But identifying the problem is the first step and leading nursing organizations are committed to speaking up and stopping racism right now. 

“The next generation of BIPOC nurses deserve more than performative activism and empty words that continue to yield no progress toward structural changes within the nursing profession or racial equity,” said Commission Co-lead and Member-at-Large Daniela Vargas, MSN, MPH, MA-Bioethics, RN, PHN. “The breadth of the nursing profession through the Code of Ethics for Nurses holds all nurses accountable for calling out racism and replacing racist policies rooted in white supremacy with ethical and just policies that promote and implement accountability, equity, and justice for nurses and the communities that we serve.”

Have you experienced racism at work as a nurse? Share your experiences with Nurse.org and get involved on the national level by submitting your public comment on The 2022 National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing Foundational Report by February 14, 2022.

Go to the top of page