Letter sent to the New England Journal of Medicine in response to two commentary articles on #BlackLivesMatter movement

Nurses for #BlackLivesMatter

We appreciate Bassett1 and Ansell and McDonald2 address of the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s relevance to medicine and public health. As registered nurses (RNs), we agree that interpersonal and institutional racism threatens Black lives—in our criminal justice system and healthcare institutions.

Similar to the underrepresentation of Black physicians and medical faculty, U.S. nursing statistics indicate that only 6% to 9.9% of RNs, 4% of advanced practice nurses, and 6% of nursing faculty are Black; 75% to 83% of RNs are non-Hispanic White, making nursing even less diverse than medicine.3,4 We cannot ignore how lack of provider diversity and racist ideologies—which pervade practice, research, and education—directly affect health equity, public health and healthcare quality.

In partnership with affected communities, we should leverage our collaborative influence to abolish historically inequitable systems that threaten human rights. Siloed, hierarchical structures of clinical and educational settings, however, impede progress. These structures isolate practitioners, mute a powerful collective voice, and perpetuate broken models of care.5 We join the authors in asserting #BlackLivesMatter, and solicit increased involvement among interdisciplinary health professionals.

1 Bassett MT. #BlackLivesMatter—a challenge to the medical and public health communities. N Engl J Med 2015;372:1085-1087

2 Ansell DA, McDonald EK. Bias, black lives, and academic medicine. N Engl J Med 2015;372:1087-1089

3 Budden JS, Zhong EH, Moulton P, Cimiotti JP. The 2013 national nursing workforce survey of registered nurses. J Nurs Regul 2013;4:S3-S72

4 The U.S. nursing workforce: trends in supply and education. Washington, D.C.: Health Resources and Services Administration, 2013. (Accessed March 22, 2015, at http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/supplydemand/nursing/nursingworkforce)

5 Nelson S, Tassone M, Hodges BD. Creating the health care team of the future: the Toronto model for interprofessional education and practice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.

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