By Tracey Boyd
Multiculturalism in nursing education was the primary focus of a fall 2014 conference at Farmingdale (N.Y.) State College.
“Diversity and Multiculturalism in Nursing Education: An Evidence-based Approach,” provided insight and suggestions for nursing educators who care for and teach a rapidly growing and culturally diverse population.
Kenya Beard, EdD, RN, GNP-BC, ACNP, CNE, associate vice president for curriculum and instruction at Jersey College, Teterboro, N.J., served as the keynote speaker for the conference. Beard, whose expertise is in diversity and nursing education, is the founding director of the Center for Multicultural Education & Health Disparities at Hunter College, City University of New York.
In her presentation, “Diversity in Nursing: Building Inclusive Environments,” Beard said everyone has biases and examined some key reasons for them. Beard relayed an experience she had growing up in Brentwood, Long Island.
She said the majority of students in the gifted program at her school were Asian. Years later, when she became an educator, she was scoring an Asian student’s exam and thought the ScanTron had to be incorrect because it determined the student had failed.
“People are affected by their cultural experiences,” she said. “We all have biases. “We’re all human. However, we need to work on our cultural sensitivities. We can’t just assume that people won’t take offense to things.”
Beard also reminded attendees they should be cognizant that bias is not just limited to race.
“Diversity is not unique to race and ethnicity,” she said. “It also includes sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, gender, education, etc.”
While at Hunter, Beard received a federal grant to recruit, retain and graduate more underrepresented minorities into nursing.
She said in order to alleviate some of the biases in nursing education, multicultural education that integrates various cultural views and empowers students, among other avenues, is necessary.
In addition, Beard said that a mix of cultures is essential to decreasing healthcare disparities.
“Greater diversity among health personnel is needed,” she said. “Workforce diversity promotes healthcare quality.”
The event also offered a segment on the connection between health literacy, language and culture. The daylong event also included breakout sessions, poster exhibits and table vendors.
Terri Ann Parnell, DNP, RN, MA, principal and founder of Health Literacy Partners, LLC, and assistant professor of population health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, previously served as vice president for literacy and patient education at North Shore-LIJ Health System.
According to Parnell, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy study conducted in 2003 by the National Center for Education Statistics determined only 12% of adults have proficient health literacy skills. This, coupled with an increase in a culturally diverse population who may not use English as their first language, poses a magnitude of issues for healthcare providers who must have processes in place to address the disparities.
“The health literacy tapestry touches on every aspect of an organization,” Parnell said. “The thing that makes it so hard is that it is so fluid.”
Parnell offered some suggestions that could help facilities and organizations improve the health literacy of their patients. She said examples include using plain language without “dumbing down” when conversing with patients, making sure forms and brochures are written in an easily understood manner, and ensuring languages on signs reflect the patient population.
The daylong event also included breakout sessions, poster exhibits and table vendors.
Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.