United States Census Bureau data reveals that, of the nearly 330 million Americans, 76% of the population is White (Villarruel, 2017). The U.S. Census now identifies six categories of race, including White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and having two or more races (United States Census Bureau, 2019). Although Whites make up most of the U.S. population, the numbers of racial and ethnic minorities are increasing.
As racial and ethnic minorities increase in the U.S. population, we see a marked focus on ensuring that the healthcare workforce is more representative of that population. In the U.S., there are over four million registered nurses serving in various roles that all influence the well-being of our nation (American Nurses Association, 2020).
As our population and the healthcare landscape evolve, we need nurses who are prepared to lead change to better serve the population. Understanding racial and ethnic minorities in this country and in healthcare leadership is essential to increasing the number of minority nurses and nurse leaders.
The primary mission of the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) is to improve health and attain health equity. A path to achieving HRSA’s mission is gaining access to quality service and a skilled workforce. According to HRSA, a key component to improving health and health equity is to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse U.S. population by strengthening the healthcare workforce. Diversity in the healthcare workforce includes diversity in sex, race, and ethnicity (HRSA, 2017).
In the table below, HRSA shows the racial and ethnic demographics of health occupations from survey data. Results show that Whites are the majority of the registered nurse profession (74.4%), followed by Blacks (10.4%), Asians (8.4%), Hispanics (5.7%), American Indian/Alaska Native (0.4%), Multiple Race/Other Race (1.5%), and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.1%).
HRSA uses survey data on health professions and census data to make determinations about a group’s representation in the profession in comparison to their representation in the population. These data further support the idea that racial and ethnic minorities in the population are also underrepresented and sometimes significantly underrepresented in the health professions, which include the profession of nursing.
Authored by Khaliah Fisher-Grace, PhD(c), MSN, RN, CPHQ, PCCN-K