Calls for nursing to address racism and prejudice as a matter of urgency.
Nurses have continued to deny the issue of racism in the profession that continues unabated and unaddressed, says Scott W. Trueman, a Queensland mental health nurse educator.
In a recent article in the Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, Trueman called on the profession to seriously commit to addressing racism, which has become a sleeper issue in nursing.
“To continue the historical path of denial or ambivalence concerning this issue declines the responsibility of creating an honest, racist-free profession. Anything less equates to dishonesty,” he said.
Trueman told Nursing Review that despite a few exceptions, the issue had been largely ignored or denied by all areas of the profession, especially in education and research.
To confront the lack of action, he has helped establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Special Interest Group within the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.
He said individual nurses themselves were often not aware of their own acts of oppression or discrimination and had a personal responsibility to practice in a culturally safe manner.
“Racism continues in nursing through the ridged delivery of health services which nurses are an integral part, and which fail to tailor, shape and consider the wishes, requirements and unique qualities of people from other cultures,” he said.
Trueman, who is also a PhD student at James Cook University, said the topic should no longer be taboo, but the obvious contradictions between caring and racism made it difficult for nurses to acknowledge racial prejudice and discrimination within the profession. “I am convinced that racism is deep-seated, embedded and pernicious within nursing.”
Change, he said, required both individual responsibility from nurses, as well co-ordinated action across the profession.
To begin to take the issue of racism “out of the closet”, nursing had to change the way it educated and trained nurses so they were able to recognise and identify racism.
“Graduates need to be given the knowledge, values and skills to identify and understand the dynamics of power and privilege and their impact on nursing,” he said.
The profession also needed to question the current political structures and polices which entrench racism into Australian healthcare and advocate for change. He said unless a systematic approach to addressing racism is undertaken the nursing profession would not have the moral authority to be advocates and genuine agents for change in the wider healthcare system.
Trueman’s article, Racism in Contemporary Australian Nursing, was co-authored with Associate Professor Jane Mills and Professor of Nursing Kim Usher from James Cook University.
In response to the article, Kim Ryan, CEO of the Australia College of Mental Health Nurses, said the issues of racism and prejudice in the profession needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. “If nurses are to be role models and change agents within our community, we need to address this issue head on.”
She said the treatment of asylum seekers by some sections of the community and media was inflammatory and perpetuated fear of perceived cultural differences. Ryan said the college would continue to take a leading role in advocating for culturally appropriate mental health services in detention centres.Do you have an idea for a story?
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