Nearly 90% of Black nurses in Ontario have experienced racism on the job: report

Feb 8 2022, 5:48 pm

A group of Black nurses in Ontario have released a damning report on anti-Black racism and discrimination in the nursing profession.

The Black Nurses Task Force (BNTF), part of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, was formed in June 2020. The task force comprises 17 Black nurses and nursing students from various sectors of the health care system.

The 72-page report details the anti-Black racism and discrimination experienced by nurses in Ontario and outlines 19 recommendations to eliminate anti-Black racism in the industry.

The report includes the results of a survey conducted by the task force. More than 200 Black nurses in Ontario responded to the study, and nearly 90% said that they experienced racism on the job.

black nurses task force

Black Nurses Task Force report/Registered Nurses Associaton of Ontario

In addition, nearly 60% of Black nurses who responded to the survey said that the racism and discrimination they’ve dealt with has moderately or strongly affected their mental health. Only 11.2% of respondents said that it had no impact on their mental health.

Black nurses task force

Black Nurses Task Force report/Registered Nurses Association of Ontario

The survey also found that the majority of respondents have not reported their experiences of racism to superiors, union representatives, HR or professors.

“For years, Black nurses have been afraid to speak out about the microaggressions, discrimination and racism they face within academic and workplace settings for fear of reprisal and the suppressive behaviours of managers,” BNTF co-chair and RNAO Past-President Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite said in a press release.

Black nurses task force

Black Nurses Task Force report/Registered Nurses Association of Ontario

Survey respondents referred to a number of reasons why they didn’t report racism and discrimination. Notably, nurses said they didn’t want to be centred out, that management and unions had a history of siding with white people, or that they felt it wasn’t worth the trouble of reporting.

The Black Nurses Task Force uses four main pillars in their work and uses them as a guide for their recommendations: “education and awareness building; research; advocacy at all levels; and partnership with allies and stakeholders.”

“The recommendations outlined in this report speak to the dire need to address and ultimately expunge racism from our profession. The report highlights the devastating impact systemic racism is having on the lived experiences and mental health of Black nurses in academic and workplace settings,” BNTF Co-chair and Nurse Practitioner Corsita Garraway said in a press release.

“All health-care and academic organizations must immediately take action and acknowledge that anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in the history of nursing in Ontario and Canada.”

Black Nurses Task Force 19 recommendations:

  • Include racism and discrimination as a topic in nursing and interprofessional curriculums.
  • Provide equitable and fair placements for Black nurses in all practice settings.
  • Provide mentoring programs for nursing students to enhance academic achievements, reduce stress, anxiety and dropout rates and to empower Black students.
  • Create educational and research grants/financial incentives/scholarships targeted specifically for Black applicants.
  • Develop and implement anti-racism, anti-oppression, cultural safety and diversity, equity and inclusion training and orientation for staff at all levels in all workplace and academic settings.
  • Include diversity, equity and inclusion committees in all workplaces and academic settings to address racism and discrimination.
  • Hold all staff (professors, managers, health-care providers) accountable for addressing racial discrimination and develop specific strategies to combat it.
  • Acknowledge systemic racism and discrimination exists at individual, organization and policy levels. Non-Black nurses must self-identify and address their individual biases. They must be encouraged by their organization to continually engage in reflective practice and delve into their perceptions and experiences to assess inherent biases and values.
  • Create safe spaces for Black nurses to open up about the discrimination and oppression they face in professional settings.
  • Embed mentorship programs in workplaces for Black nurses to facilitate professional growth and development, and to improve retention and recruitment of Black employees.
  • Provide tools and resources to support Black nurses as they navigate difficult challenges when dealing with residents, patients or families who display racism.
  • Advocate for diversity in leadership, senior and/or administrative, education roles in the nursing profession as well as health sectors.
  • Increase access to mental health supports in the workplace and academic settings to address traumas related to racism.
  • Develop and enforce policies on anti-racism, such as zero tolerance of racism from staff, nursing leaders, patients and families.
  • Collect and disseminate race-based data.
  • Provide mandatory courses or workshops that include topics of cultural humility, anti-oppressive behaviours, anti-racism and trauma-informed care in orientation and continuing education programs.
  • Stand in solidarity through partnership with health-care associations and organizations; advocate to diversify their senior team and provide equitable opportunities for Black individuals at the senior executive/management level.
  • Advocate for the federal and provincial governments to address racism against Black Canadians and include Black History within the educational curriculum in Canada.
  • Advocate for the establishment of a commission similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and address racism against Black Canadians.
Brooke TaylorBrooke Taylor

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