Nurses on the Front Lines of Health Care Inequities

Nurses on the Front Lines - Fall 2018 Rutgers-Camden Magazine
From left, Bob Atkins, associate professor of nursing and childhood studies; Sherolde Hackett, program services manager for the Camden Healthy Start program; and School of Nursing–Camden Dean Donna Nickitas.

In the latest issue of the Rutgers University–Camden magazine, Donna M. Nickitas, who became dean of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden in July, emphasizes that nurses must address issues of disparity and discrimination in health care, particularly regarding African Americans and Latinos. In the story, "Nurses on the Front Lines of Health Care Inequities," she cites a 2018 survey conducted by Harvard, NPR, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that explored discrimination as an indicator of health status. “That survey revealed that every demographic group surveyed felt discriminated against their race or ethnic group,” she said.

"I want to make sure all individuals have access to health care. We have made public education a right. I believe health care should be a right for everyone," remarked School of Nursing–Camden Dean Nickitas.

Nurses, who make up the majority of health care providers, have a long history of advocacy and social action. They confront daunting healthcare inequities on a daily basis and advocate for policies that protect all patient populations, especially the most vulnerable against discrimination, health inequity, and social injustice. The School of Nursing–Camden works to address and promote health equity through a number of initiatives: partnering with community organizations that have shared goals; educating school nurses; diversifying the nursing workforce; and preparing all nurses to be leaders on health care issues.

Nurses can be leaders through their everyday interactions with patients, says Dean Nickitas. “A significant and growing body of research shows how day-to-day experiences of nurses, specifically advanced practice registered nurses, have contributed to alleviating the shortcomings of quality, access, and cost-effective, patient-centered care.”

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