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Nurses report frequent experiences of racism and discrimination in new survey

Nurses report seeing or hearing racism and experiencing discrimination from almost 80% of their patients, according to a survey released on Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Asian, Black and Latino nurses are significantly more likely to experience racist microaggressions than their White peers, and they told researchers that patients frequently use racial slurs or question their credentials. 

Six in 10 nurses also reported they face discrimination from their colleagues as well, according to the survey. Of the nurses who have experienced racism or discrimination, 9 in 10 said it has affected their well-being and mental health.

And even though an overwhelming majority of nurses faced some form of racism, few reported the incidents. Just 1 in 4 nurses reported the discrimination they saw or experienced to management, the survey said.

Nurses said that increasing diversity in management would help address the issues, as well as more training on diversity, equity and inclusion. Eight in 10 nurses said "zero-tolerance workplace discrimination policies, clear consequences, and reporting anonymity" would improve the ability to retain racially and ethnically diverse nurses.

"We as nurses must hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior and work to change the systems that perpetuate racism and other forms of discrimination," Beth Toner, a registered nurse and director of program communications at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a news statement.

Researchers surveyed 980 nurses in March and April 2022 to gather their experiences and perceptions of racism. These latest findings follow a 2022 survey of 5,600 nurses released last year by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing in which half the nurses agreed there is "a lot" of racism in nursing.

There are about 4.2 million registered nurses in the United States, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing,  comprising the largest component of the healthcare profession. 

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