What nurse practitioners should know about diversity, equity, and inclusion

Learning vocabulary to advocate for equity, and provide actionable tools for nurse practitioners to confront and dismantle health disparities was this keynote speaker's topic at the 43rd National Conference on Pediatric Health Care in Dallas, Texas.

“By the end of this presentation, we will have examined health disparity through the lens of social justice, learn the vocabulary required to advocate for health equity, and provide actionable tools for nurses to confront and dismantle health disparities.” So began Felesia Bowen, PhD, DN, RN, PPCNP-BC, FAAN, professor and associate dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing in her opening remarks of the 43rd National Conference on Pediatric Health Care in Dallas on March 22.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues, which include, among others, gender equity, LGBTQIA+, age, ability and neurodiversity, go hand in hand with DEI concerns. Those concerns run can include historical trauma, social injustice, and reconciliation equity.

Bowen then went on to compare a number of phrases common to the DEI space. The definition of human rights, she explained, are rights inherent to all human beings v civil rights, rights guaranteed and protected by the US Constitution and federal laws enacted by congress.Equality is when each individual or group of people is given the same resources opportunities, while equity is a recognition that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

Bowen moved on to a discussion of race, “a concept used to group people according to various factors including ancestral background and social identity…also used to group people that share a set of visible characteristics, such as skin color and facial features.” She shared a historical perspective from Carl Linnaeus, an 18th-century Swedish botanist and physician and father of taxonomy, who first broke down descriptions of homosapiens to include “European white,” (for Caucasians), “American reddish” (native Americans), “Asian tawny” (Asians) and “African black” (for blacks).

Bowen continued in discussing the various types of racism, (internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural). She connected how various types of racism contribute to health inequities, and then went on to advocate for “talking the talk-call in” (reflection, not reaction, intentional yet innocent curiosity) to “talking the talk-call out” (interrupting to let people know that their words are inappropriate/harmful, etc). She also encouraged nurse practitioners to practice political advocacy; examine workforce diversity; look at policy through an equity lens, and inclusion: “Look at who is at the table. Is there diversity? If not, why not?”

This was originally posted by our sister publication Contemporary Pediatrics.

Bowen F. Empowering change through diversity, equity & inclusion. 43rd National Conference on Pediatric Health Care. March 22, 2022; Dallas, Texas.