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  • Karen Edmond

Black Nurses Matter!

When I was a teenager and worked in a hospital in the '70s, I would witness a plethora of American Black nurses and doctors at the site. TV shows throughout the 60s to 70s even had programs starring actors being Black nurses and doctors. Seeing Black nurses and doctors in action gave Black youth affirmative confidence that as long as they put their mind to do something, they could achieve it. Or how the United Negro League College Fund would say “A mind is a trouble thing to waste.” as I grew older and worked in the healthcare field, I began to witness Black nurses & doctors fading away. In the 90s upon graduating from high school, black students who were interested in working in medical field were directed toward becoming nurse’s aids and not licensed practicing nurses, registered nurses, or doctors.

More people of color who did not identify with the African diaspora as Black Americans did were hired at quicker rates. Hence, the said effect caused a disenfranchisement factor in the Black community because it blocked resources from acquiring jobs opportunities in the entry-level medical field upon graduating nursing school that paid on the norm between $25 to $40 an hour in the 90s. Unfortunately, vocational schools, community colleges, and state universities that provide an affordable way to acquire a degree in nursing also have a “dreaded waiting list” process that blocks future students from successfully acquiring their degrees in a favorable time spand in the states. Hence leaving employment opportunities wide open to any other population that could more than likely obtain a degree in nursing for free from their native land.

All of this systematic undermining basically funneled quality jobs to populations coming from other countries to address the demand for nursing staff throughout hospitals in America. This economic divide devastated the Black family because RN positions that pay an average of $38-$45 an hour with benefits were allocated to immigrant populations. And leaving Black citizens in a rut of being steered into becoming certified nurse’s aides or home health aide upon graduating high school with whom were paid if they were lucky on the average of $10 to $ 12 an hour with no benefits.

How can this be when we know that historically Black nurses have served faithfully in the military & increased in numbers throughout the 1890s to1980s assisting in creating nursing associations plus training such as The National Association of Colored Nurses of 1910.

The deconstruction of Black American nurses seems to begin per the Reagan administration when economic downsizing devastated Black communities and the cost of living shot straight to the roof. Could this diversion of career destinies be another design of systematic racism utilizing other persons of color as the pawn to push Black medical professionals into a 3rd class position economically? Per a study by Evelyn L Barbee School of Nursing Boston College Journal Article "Racism in U.S. Nursing," the answer is yes. Professor Cornell West (1993) notes strategic methods where Black nurses (& doctors in this case) seemed to be a threat to the mainstream society America.

This explains why, in the 90s, more and more Black students interested in becoming nurses were directed to become aides instead of qualified, trained nurses or medical students. Hence in turn they became trained patient care aides, nurses’ aides, home health aides (just anything that sounds like maids,) to block them to become all they could be in the nursing field systematically. The implementation of removing LPN's in the field of nursing per downsizing in the 90s could also link to the probability factor that would block a portion of Black LPN's to be paid less than what she or he deserved. Per the study, "Today the racial bias in nursing is demonstrated in the small numbers of Black registered nurses and Black nursing students and the almost absence of Black nurses' contribution in nursing texts. As a result, Black nurses are marginalized in the "caring profession." here in America by design. How can we fix this injustice? The Echo wants to know.

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