The American Nurses Association Issues Mea Culpa to Women of Color for Racism

On July 12th, 2022, The American Nurses Association (ANA) issued a statement admitting how its own previous actions have harmed nurses of color and perpetuated systemic racism. 

They began by acknowledging how their acts from 1916 until 1964 excluded Black nurses systemically and systematically. For example, before 1916, ANA’s predecessor organization, the Nurses’ Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, was open to alumnae associations of nursing schools, including Black hospitals and nurse training schools. However, in 1916, when the Nurses’ Associated Alumnae became the American Nurses Association, the organization changed its membership rule from an alumnae-based membership to that of a state- and district-based membership. Consequently, black nurses were discriminated against and denied membership in some state associations for nurses.

The organization also recognized that it took forty-eight years before the last district in Louisiana dropped its discriminatory membership restriction, thus reflecting the failure of ANA leaders to aggressively pursue changes in its discriminatory membership rules and permit full participation regardless of race. However, despite the membership inclusion clause,  ANA acknowledges that the full inclusion of Black nurses within ANA leadership and decision-making remains unrealized and elusive for all nurses of color.

Another incident the organization apologized for was the lack of representation for black nurses, particularly on a policy level. For example, after the first Black nurse, Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne was elected to the ANA board in 1948, no Black nurses were elected to the board again until 1970 — about twenty-two years. Nothing was done to address the lack of representation for black nurses, even after it was raised at the ANA’s 1972 conference.

Furthermore, the organization acknowledged its role in perpetuating racial disparities, following the 1965 proposal that a baccalaureate degree is a minimum requirement for nurses. As a result of this new proposal, ANA disenfranchised institutions and schools of nursing that were open to students of color and excluded nurses who graduated from those programs. Moreover, they did this without making any arrangements to ensure that all nurses had equal access to the education required to obtain the acceptable educational level for entrance into the profession.

These and other decisions made by the ANA have had a domino effect that has inhibited nurses of color from progressing as they would have in organizational leadership and their own careers. 

In the statement released, the organization recognized its leadership in promoting systemic racism and seeks forgiveness from nurses of color, the nursing profession, and other communities harmed by their actions.

“In the end, it is our actions that will truly reflect the sincerity of this apology and serve as the underpinning for forgiveness. For it is forgiveness that we seek — forgiveness from nurses of color, the nursing profession, and the communities that have been harmed by our actions. We fervently hope that this statement, its subsequent work, and the efforts of the Commission will contribute to healing — individual healing for nurses, reconciliation with the ethnic-minority nurse associations, and healing of the profession,” The organization said in the statement.


Source: American Nurses Association 

Source: Medpage