Nurse bias and nursing care disparities related to patient characteristics: A scoping review of the quantitative and qualitative evidence

J Clin Nurs. 2021 May 22. doi: 10.1111/jocn.15861. Online ahead of print.


INTRODUCTION: Investigations of healthcare workers’ implicit attitudes about patient characteristics and differences in delivery of healthcare due to bias are increasingly common. However, there is a gap in our understanding of nurse-specific bias and care disparities.

AIMS: To identify (a) the types of available evidence, (b) key factors and relationships identified in the evidence and (c) knowledge gaps related to nurse bias (nurse attitudes or beliefs towards a patient characteristic) and nursing care disparities (healthcare disparities related specifically to nursing care).

METHODS: Authors completed a scoping review using the Joanne Briggs Institute method and PRISMA-SCR checklist. Five databases were searched. After screening, 215 research reports were included and examined. Data were extracted from research reports and assessed for thematic patterns and trends across multiple characteristics.

RESULTS: Nurse bias and/or care disparity investigations have become increasingly common over the 38-year span of included reports. Multiple patient characteristics have been investigated, with the most common being race and/or ethnicity, gender and age. Twenty-nine of 215 studies identified a potential relationship between nurse bias regarding a characteristic and nursing care of individuals with that characteristic. Of these studies, 27 suggested the bias was associated with a negative disparate impact on nursing care. Only 12 reports included evaluating an intervention designed to reduce nurse bias or nursing care-related healthcare disparities.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite increasing research focus on individual bias and disparities in healthcare, the accumulated knowledge regarding nurses has not significantly advanced past a descriptive, exploratory level. Nor has there been a consistent focus on the role of nurses, who represent the largest component of the professional healthcare workforce.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: National and international codes of ethics for nurses require provision of care according to individual, unique patient need, disregarding bias and incorporating patient characteristics into their plan of care.

PMID:34021653 | DOI:10.1111/jocn.15861