A veteran nurse and educator compiles firsthand accounts of nurses who have faced racism in New York City hospitals.
In this debut collection of interviews, seasoned nurse and nursing teacher Semper pulls back the veil on the racism and discrimination in New York hospitals in the 21st century, giving a platform to 50 minority nurses to share their frustrations and battles with prejudice and intolerance within their field. These caregivers range in age, experience, and, especially, background, including but not limited to Latino, Indian, Asian, and African-American nurses as well as immigrant caretakers who have come to New York from as far away as Russia and Guyana. Despite these differences, each illustrates a consistent pattern of minority nurses being ignored or exploited, paid less than their white counterparts, and segregated to working only night shifts. Those wronged have few places to turn for aid, as most human resources officials are influenced by institutional racism or are unable to protect complainants from retaliation, while organizations like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are largely staffed by nonminority workers as well. It is clear some of those interviewed have given up hope, discouraging other minority nurses from pursuing their careers, but others, though not optimistic, offer pragmatic solutions, pushing for racial-awareness training, suggesting more on-the-job nurse advocates, and stressing the importance of education and effective mentors. Most striking in these accounts, besides the great bravery each nurse demonstrates in coming forward, is the near-identical hardships they describe. Furthermore, each clearly illustrates the impact these discriminatory environments have on patient care, with mental and emotional abuse leading to burnout or breakdown, decreasing the quality of treatment and forcing much-needed skilled workers out of the field. Individually the essays are rather abrupt, and while this makes them no less believable, the heartbreaking similarities across all 50 stories are largely what tie these diverse voices together. Some broader statistical information would have been welcome, but even without it, the final product is more than just a collection of grievances. It’s a cacophonous call to action.
An eye-opening resource illustrates one more facet of how race affects health care.