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How Nurse Executives Incorporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Principles

When you look in the mirror, you see a unique reflection made up of the characteristics that make you who you are.

As a nursing professional, it’s important to embrace all patients and their specific needs — not just those who look and live like you do. That might seem like a given, but certain prejudicial attitudes among nursing staff require a more inclusive take on patient care.

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Executive online program at Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) delivers both the advanced expertise for nurses to advance their careers and the cultural competence skills that help them treat patients with respect and dignity.

Defining Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Many times, nurses don’t realize when they approach patient care in an inequitable or non-inclusive way. Greater attention to equitable and inclusive care has proven positive patient outcomes, and that has been an impetus for the rise of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in nursing practice and the greater scope of healthcare. By breaking each DEI component down, nurses can come to understand the importance of each.

Diversity. This encompasses race, ethnicity, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, physical ability or attributes, religion/spirituality, ethical values system, national origin and political beliefs. There is no “one size fits all” regarding a person’s unique background.

Equity. Per Minority Nurse, equity often gets confused with equality. They should not be used interchangeably. “In healthcare, equality means giving everybody the same resource or opportunity to achieve their health goals. Equity is recognizing that each person has different circumstances and honoring that by allocating opportunities and resources to allow them to reach an equal outcome. Simply giving someone an opportunity isn’t enough if they don’t have the means to use it.”

Inclusion. By recognizing that patients come from different backgrounds, nurses and the organizations in which they work can unite and make a concerted effort to be open and welcoming to all patients. This also involves providing patients a voice and ensuring a safe and respectful care environment.

DEI in the Workplace

DEI expands beyond the patient population. It’s important to treat each patient with the respect they deserve. However, nurses can elevate care further by also respecting their colleagues’ backgrounds. To that end, nurse executives serve a powerful role. Often, nurse leaders have influence over the hiring process. Therefore, it’s imperative to recognize when diversity in the nurse workforce is lacking.

For example, a report by — and reported on by Diversity Nursing — found that while Hispanics make up 17% of the U.S. population, only about 3.5% of registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. are Hispanic. Similar disparities were revealed among African American and Asian nurses. Considering the various aspects of diversity, one can presume additional disparities among factors like gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic and more.

Of course, hiring must be based on qualifications and experience — but diversity among candidates should never exclude someone from joining the staff.

DEI’s Role in Improving Patient Care and Satisfaction

The nurse-patient connection surrounding DEI goes even deeper when considering the quality of care patients receive. Patients who see something of themselves in their healthcare providers, including nurses, often feel more comfortable throughout the care continuum. They may be more open to disclosing sensitive information knowing that the nurse “gets” their care needs. Trust is essential to nursing care, particularly because nurses are typically the first point of patient contact. Mutual respect goes a long way in instilling confidence between nurse and patient.

Again, this is an opportunity for nurse executives to make a difference. Alisha Cornell, DNP, MSN, RN, Senior Clinical Implementation Consultant at Relias, offers support for nurses dedicated to improving patient care and satisfaction via DEI-focused initiatives.

“Take advantage of educational DEI opportunities your organization provides — and find them on your own if they do not,” she urges. “Understanding the complexities and capabilities of a DEI-informed nursing culture will make you a better advocate for your patients and yourself as you grow in your career.”

The change will not occur overnight. Yet, with greater awareness of the importance of DEI, nurse executives and the nurses in their charge can help expedite the shift.

Support Your DEI Knowledge With an MSN Degree

No one expects nurses to navigate the DEI journey on their own. The MSN – Nurse Executive online program at Northwest equips students with proficiency in healthcare policies and ethics, organizational structures and processes, culture and collaboration. Coursework is comprehensive, spanning evidence-based practice and research to global health systems.

For example, the Leadership Effectiveness of the Nurse Leader course helps nurses “establish a healthy, ethical, and safe workplace environment.” It focuses on “relationship-building, human resource management, conflict resolution, change theory, mentorship, coaching, workplace diversity and shared governance.” The Global Health Systems course covers cultural, economic, political and value-based differences contributing to the human health experience.

An accelerated program pace allows students to complete their studies in as few as 12 months. As a result, graduates can get on their career path quickly, seeking out positions such as nursing director, surgery center administrative director, practice administrator or chief nursing officer.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s online MSN – Nurse Executive program.

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