The word ‘diversity’, when used within an educational context, encompasses a large number of concepts that describe different aspects of diversity education. These terms include multicultural education, antiracist education, ethnic studies, social justice education, multi-lingual education, integration, and many others, and together they propagate that all people, regardless of their social, ethnic, or cultural standing, have the same equal rights and that education should be made to promote that tolerance.
There are two levels of diversity, primary and secondary. The primary dimensions of diversity define how we categorize ourselves and the people around us. They are often referred to as the core dimensions of diversity because they are perceived to have the strongest impact on us and have the strongest and most lasting effect. These are race or ethnicity, age, physical abilities, sexual orientation, gender, and religious beliefs.
Secondary dimensions of diversity describe the acquired differences, which can change over time, based on our experiences and decisions. These are work history, salary, marital status, family history, education, place of living, military experience, etc (IVY Planning Group, n.d.).
It is perceived that identifiers listed under each category can have a tremendous effect on the life of a student in question. Discrimination by race, ethnicity, and gender have been serious problems till the beginning of the previous century, and only in recent decades, the problem has begun to fully subside (Batiste, 2010). And while there are still fears that such prejudices may be affecting the minority groups, society and education, in particular, have made tremendous leaps away from them and towards diversity.
To further this goal, the various nursing accrediting bodies have also made efforts to increase the number of minority healthcare providers, so that they would correlate with the percentages of these minorities within the country. These organizations believe that by strengthening the diversity they will improve communication between providers and patients, and facilitate the provision of culturally relevant care. This is all a part of a general industry shift towards patient-centered care (Beard, 2014).
However, this raises the question of the difference between diversity and culture, and how one can help better understand the other. Ultimately, diversity is a much more individualistic term and refers to the identifier make-up of a person. Culture, on the other hand, speaks about groups of people, united by particular attitudes, beliefs, or social phenomena. People can be united by their culture, but still differ from each other in terms of other features.
Multicultural education creates opportunities for students to not only share their culture with peers but also to absorb their culture in return while retaining one’s individuality. If anything, multicultural education has the potential to amplify individual diversity.
An increase of diversity among health practitioners and nurses, in particular, is seen as a very desirable goal to healthcare regulating institutions. It is perceived that diverse students will be better equipped to serve and care for an equally diverse clientele of patients and their communities, in a way that maximizes their dignity and humanity (Jackson & Irwin, 2011). This is especially relevant in the light of the projected increase in minorities’ percentage within the population to more than 50 percent by 2050 (Broughton, 2008).
To this end, the government and other health industry stakeholders, like Johnson & Johnson, have begun conducting campaigns aimed at increasing the popularity of nursing and healthcare professions among the minority groups (Bednarz, Schim, & Doorenbos, 2010).
It has already been determined that that additional time and resources would be needed to help diverse students, who identified themselves as English language learners, to acquire the language level sufficient for the responsibilities of their future professions. Academic research, titled “A critical exploration of how English language learners experience nursing education”, specifically addressed the difficulties of educating students from underrepresented groups. The lack of diversity among educators and their traditional and monocultural teaching practices proved to be a barrier for the students. However, they were able to succeed in the course despite their socioeconomic realities (Mulready-Shick, 2013).
This proves that the lack of strong command of the English language is not necessarily a decisive factor among diverse students. However, to draw out the full potential of these students, the nursing educators need to adopt a learner-centered approach which would help overcome institutional and other inhibitors (like the language barrier) on the way towards efficient, productive learning (Greer, Pokorny, Clay, Brown, & Steele, 2010). Also, once there are more multicultural, diverse nursing educators, the transition and integration process will be simplified even further.
I believe that in the current country climate, following the introduction of Obamacare and the resulting increase in the availability of medical care for minorities, diversity is vital for successful advancement and growth of the healthcare industry. It desperately needs an influx of new blood, of both physicians and nurses from diverse backgrounds, to accommodate the culturally and ethically diverse population of the country, and provide them with the best possible care.
Batiste, G. (2010). Sample Cultural Identifiers. Web.
Beard, K. V. (2014). Strengthening diversity in nursing: The practices and preparedness of nursing faculty. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 4(11), 59.
Bednarz, H., Schim, S., & Doorenbos, A. (2010). Cultural Diversity in Nursing Education: Perils, Pitfalls, and Pearls. Journal of Nursing Education, 49(5), 253-260. Web.
Broughton, A. (2008). Minorities are expected to be the majority in 2050. Web.
Greer, A. G., Pokorny, M., Clay, M. C., Brown, S., & Steele, L. L. (2010). Learner-centered characteristics of nurse educators. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 7(1), 1-15.
IVY Planning Group. (n.d.). Dimensions of Diversity. Web.
Jackson, A., & Irwin, W. (2011). Dignity, humanity and equality: Principle of nursing practice A. Nursing Standard, 25(28), 35-37.
Mulready-Shick, J. (2013). A critical exploration of how English language learners experience nursing education. Nursing Education Perspectives, 34(2), 82-87.