February 23, 2024
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CSUCI nursing aims to challenge bias in the medical field

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Research continues to show that Black mothers and babies have the worst childbirth outcomes in the United States. And while this figure only focuses on one field of medicine — obstetrics/gynecology — the nursing program at CSU Channel Islands aims to challenge implicit bias among their pre-medical students and professionals. 

“Our faculty are engaged in a lot of work around diversity and bias training and they understand the role of bias, clinical judgment and decision making,” said Lynette Landry, chair and professor for the Department of Nursing at CSUCI.

Landry added that CSUCI hosts a JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Conference and that the next one will be coming up this spring. CSUCI is the only program on the Central Coast to offer JEDI training.

“It’s been really rewarding. We’ve had a lot of good discussions and are more inclusive in the way we present material,” she said.

Registered nurses who work in hospitals, physician’s offices, home healthcare services and nursing care facilities as well as outpatient clinics and schools help provide and coordinate patient care as well as education of patients and the public about various health conditions. Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program. 

CSUCI offers a master’s and bachelor’s degree in nursing and makes it a point in their classes to point out racial biases and correct those.

Landry talked about how the program has done audits of classrooms to make sure the images used are representative of the population they are serving in an inclusive way. The initiatives can be seen in action in the updated syllabi of the nursing program. 

“We require students to take implicit bias training as care providers, in this way they’re more aware of what they bring to the interaction with patients,” said Landry.

Additionally, they have reevaluated their admission criteria to make sure they weren’t excluding certain people based on different socioeconomic, racial or ethnic backgrounds.

“We’ve done a lot of work to look at the way we make sure our students are pulled from a diverse pool of applicants that is representative of our whole community. We’ve also done a lot of work as a campus faculty around increasing the diversity of our staff so that it is also more representative of our community,” she said. 

It seems to be working too, as Landry said the number of students accepted and attending CSUCI from underrepresented minority groups continue to inch up over the past three years.

The students are also wholly on board with these initiatives.

“We encourage students to participate in all the discussions and meetings included in some of our work groups and so they’ve had input into decision-making processes. We always love to listen to what our students have to say about a particular initiative that we have,” Landry said. “They’re appreciative of being included in the process and addressing this important topic.” 

A final important element of the nursing program is the leadership perspective provided to the students.

“We call it our nursing philosophy, but it’s the lens that we look at and through. We really tore it apart over the last year and a half or so to really think about who we are and what we want to be compared to — both our students and to the broader community,” said Landry. “We did our whole philosophy over with a JEDI focus and we really talked about social justice, we talked about health inequities and health disparities, but in a way that allows people to do the work to address those issues.” 

The median annual wage for a registered nurse was $77,600 in May 2021. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. There are over 203,000 openings for registered nurses projected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as retiring. 

There is still a sizable pay gap between nurses of color and especially women nurses of color and their male counterparts. On average, women nurses are paid 91 cents for every dollar earned by men, with men reporting average earnings of $7,300 more than women.

The gender pay gap for Black and Latina women has closed more slowly than for white and Asian women compared to white males. The earnings ratio for Black women has only risen from 59% to 63% in the past 30 years. At this rate, the gender pay gap for Black women won’t disappear for another 350 years.