Robin's Nest President's Column - June 2020

Robin Hertel Headshot
Addressing an Infected Wound: Racism

As nurses, we are all familiar with the need to debride wounds of necrotic and infected tissues so that the health tissue can continue the healing process. This is basic to our nurse training, our practice, and our science. I find it interesting that a concept as seemingly forthright as ensuring a wound bed has a healthy base and the needed nutrients to heal has not as easily transferred to other areas of our lives. 

Wounds that have been covered up and ignored for centuries have finally been brought to light. We have seen blatant racism and inconceivable evil done to a fellow member of the human race. Thanks to the many who were brave enough to call this what it is – murder, and to stand up and say that we, as a People, will no longer tolerate the brutality and the ignorance of racism. I have seen people of all color march day after day, facing the dangers of being shot with rubber bullets, hit with batons and fired upon with tear gas and it breaks my heart. I have watched the news show incidents of looting along with images of police officers kneeling with and hugging protestors – giving the public a mixed message that everything will go back to normal soon. 

As we know from the covid pandemic, there is no going back to what was formerly considered “normal”. Now is the time and the opportunity to develop a new normal with regard to managing infection, whether it be bacterial, viral, or racism. And racism is an infected wound; it is a blight upon our country, and it limits the empowerment that all People should experience. 

Over the past several weeks, I have had reflected upon my previous actions as a staff and charge nurse, as well as an educator. While I had always believed that I treated every individual the same, with respect and dignity, I remained ignorant of the institutional racism that is built into policies and practices of some institutions. I was shocked and dismayed when I recently read an article by Iheduru-Anderson which spoke of long-term inequities experienced by nurses of color. It gave me pause to realize I was an unknowing participant in white elitism; thinking that racism in nursing was a non-issue. After all, we are colleagues – brothers and sisters who dedicate our lives to the care of others regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. It is a part of our code of ethics, of the pledge we take as nurses. We have failed to live up to the morality and ethics we attest to and pledge we have made. 

I have a unique opportunity as AMSN’s president to give voice to issues that need attention. I am pledging, here and now, to continue to continue to work toward improving the work conditions of all of our nurses. There is no room for complacency or racism in this organization or in our practice. 

Reference
Iheduru-Anderson, K.C. (2020). The White/Black hierarchy institutionalizes White supremacy in nursing and nursing leadership in the United States. Journal of Professional Nursing (in press). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2020.05.005 
 

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