Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity in Nursing Research

By Nicole Fontenot DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, CCNS, CCRN-K

When preparing to write this article, I thought I would easily find oodles of nursing research that demonstrated why diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are essential in nursing research and nursing practice. I figured there were systematic reviews and meta-analyses on diversity in nursing research or peer-reviewed articles that showed how nurses influence health equity. After all, it seems like every few days over the past 18 months I have read about some professional nursing organization or nursing school making some sort of statement about DEI.
But what I found shocked me — because I found very little. When searching on Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), using the terms “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and “nursing care” I found only one article which discussed writing nursing textbooks. Searching “DEI” and “evidence-based practice in nursing” resulted in zero articles. “DEI” and “nursing research” produced two articles about recruiting practices in undergraduate nursing programs. I tried a dozen combinations of search terms like these and continued to find very little.
Rapidly losing hope at finding supporting references to write this article, I decided to see what I could find on good ol’ Google. Using the search terms “DEI” and “nursing research” produced 30 million results, of which I examined the first two pages (because honestly — who looks beyond the first or second page on Google?). I found many links to professional nursing organizations, healthcare systems, healthcare leaders, prominent nurses, nursing journals and universities all discussing their positions on DEI and how they cultivate it at their organizations. These position statements are valuable and worth reading.
But what this has shown me is that there is very little actual evidence around DEI, nursing practice and patient care. It has left me with so many unanswered questions. How are we ensuring that when we translate nursing research into patient care it considers the diversity of our patients? How can we address health equity with evidence-based nursing care? Are we doing all we can to ensure nursing practice is inclusive?
I think the first step may be awareness. When reading nursing literature, do you consider the population studied and how it compares to our patient population at Houston Methodist? Think about your nursing practice — are you providing equitable care? Are you addressing your patient’s psychological and social needs? Do you take time to consider how a patient’s culture or ethnicity may impact the care they need? Do you have the communication skills to even ask a patient if we are meeting those needs? Is our nursing workforce truly diverse and inclusive? Take time to consider these questions about your own nursing practice.
As we become aware of how we provide nursing care that is equitable and inclusive to our diverse patients, opportunities will arise to conduct nursing research around these topics. In the coming years, when I search CINAHL about DEI and nursing care, instead of finding a lot of nothing, I want to find dozens of articles written by Houston Methodist nurses that highlight us as leaders in DEI and nursing research. I know this has opened my eyes and going forward I will be intentional to take action to address DEI in nursing research. Please join me in this call to action.
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