August 15, 2017

Racism Against Nurses of Color is an Open Secret and This Is Why

Racism Against Nurses of Color is an Open Secret and This Is Why

By Angelina Gibson

“I don’t want any colored nurses in my room.”

If that statement makes you think of a time over 50 years ago, you might want to think again - those words were spoken to nurse Kayrelli, in 2017. And, for many other nurses of color, this is a common occurrence. 


""I don't want any COLORED people in my room." ⚠️⛔️🚫🏃🏾‍♀️🏃🏾‍♀️🏃🏾‍♀️🏃🏾‍♀️ walking right pass that door! . . This is how you look at the call light system when a patient says, "I don't want any colored people in my room," but then keeps calling. You see, I only have one patient right now and could help, but.... 🤔 always honor the patient's request. Need those good HCAHPS scores. What happens if there is a scenario like from #smallgreatthings ?? Hope not to find out. 2more hours to go." #Repost @kayrelli_travels ❗️Thank you for sharing your story, many Nurses don't...this treatment is far more common than we like to admit. Thank you for being YOU and for all that you do. ✌🏽️on🌍Angelina

A post shared by Angelina ✌🏽 (@travelnursinginsider) on


Many hospitals are forced to abide by these absurd requests. Not only to please the patient but to also protect their own personnel. 

A Familiar Scenario

A video recently went viral of a woman demanding that only a white doctor care for her son at a clinic on Ontario, Canada. In the beginning of the video, the agitated woman can clearly be heard stating, “I would like to see a white doctor...You’re telling me there’s not one white doctor in this whole entire building?”

There wouldn’t be a white pediatrician in until 4 p.m., the clinic staff explained. The woman continued to complain, claiming that the "brown doctor” she previously saw did not help her child, who was suffering from chest pains.

“He was not speaking English. His teeth were brown. I do not need his help,” the unidentified woman said.

Though this incident happened in Canada, we have no doubt that similar situations happen in the U.S. The only difference - this one was caught on camera.  

While the public was shocked by her actions, for many nurses, the scene was all too familiar.  Racism from patients is a bit of an open secret in the medical industry and patients routinely refuse treatment from non-white medical professionals and nurses.

In fact, according to a  2002 study by Johns Hopkins University found that, when given a choice, most patients prefer a doctor of their own race.

Lawsuits Involving Racism

Such instances happen so frequently that multiple lawsuits have been filed against hospitals by nurses.  

Registered Nurse, Tonya Battle sued a Flint, Mich., hospital in 2013 when a newborn patient’s father refused care from black members of the staff. He went so far as to post a note that read, “No African American nurse to take care of baby” and flaunted his swastika tattoos to hospital staff.

His actions prompted the nurse supervisor to call a staff meeting informing the hospital workers of the request. 

A federal appeals court found a nursing home to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act in 2010 after it refused to hire a black woman due to racist residents living at the nursing home.  

In another case, the pregnant partner of a white supremacist was prevented from receiving care from three black hospital workers at a Philadelphia hospital - resulting in a federal lawsuit.  

Despite the triumphs we’ve made in the United States towards racial equality, as people who work directly with the public, nurses will be the first to tell you that racism still exists in this country. 

Standing Together

National Nurses United, the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history, has condemned the deadly violence sparked by the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. Furthermore, they have publicly criticized the “inadequate response” by President Trump.  

“There can be no doubt that the appalling display of white supremacy and hatred on display in Charlottesville today was the precipitator of the violence,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.

“As a society, it is incumbent upon all of us to forcefully repudiate all expressions of white supremacy, racial hatred, and bigotry,” said DeMoro. “Anyone familiar with the history of how white supremacy has stained our nation and our democracy can not be surprised that continued expressions of that virulent philosophy would lead to violence today.” 

“All of our nation’s elected leaders, starting in the White House, have a responsibility to condemn racial hatred and the violence it encourages, and disassociate from those promoting it,” DeMoro said.

DeMoro also remarked on the peaceful protesters who “showed the best of America in taking a stand for cultural diversity and understanding among all people. We have a long way to go to assure the equality, civil rights and civil liberties of all our people. There’s no time to waste.”

We are proud to hear that the NNU has publicly condemned this horrific event and we stand in solidarity with all those affected.  

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