The Importance of Having a Diverse Nursing Staff on College Campuses

Students with disabilities, different races, genders, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations should all be able to feel comfortable on campus, especially when they need healthcare.

The Importance of Having a Diverse Nursing Staff on College Campuses

Photo: andrey_orlov, Adobe Stock

Nurses play an important role on college campuses. Students, especially those who live on campus, need to maintain good health and well-being to achieve academic success. Nurses can provide a variety of services for students, from basic healthcare services to campus-wide health initiatives.

In the United States, the nursing workforce on college campuses tends to lack diversity. While most of these nurses are caring, compassionate, and very good at what they do, a lack of diversity can have a negative impact on the students they serve. Here’s why having a diverse nursing staff on college campuses is so important.

The Importance of Diversity in Healthcare

Healthcare is a universal need. People of all ages, races, and genders need access to high-quality healthcare. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to the care they need to thrive. Disadvantaged or underserved groups often face health disparities that can have a major impact on overall health.

These health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of poor health, often due to social determinants of health (such as physical access to quality care, level of education, and financial resources). Health disparities lead to poorer outcomes for patients.

Diversity in healthcare is important for addressing these health disparities and making quality medical care available to all. A diverse workforce in nursing can improve patient outcomes in several ways, most importantly because it is more representative of the populations it serves.

Benefits of a Diverse Nursing Staff on College Campuses

A diverse nursing staff can provide many benefits for students on campus. Nursing teams that are diverse can provide better overall care and patient outcomes because they will be able to connect with a wide range of students from different backgrounds.

Diversity also makes teams stronger professionally. Because diversity brings together people with different perspectives and ways of thinking, nursing teams can become more creative and innovative, which is important when coming up with health initiatives on campus.

Teams with high levels of diversity are also more well-rounded since they can learn from one another. Diversity can help nurses develop better cultural competence and develop more empathy for their patients and colleagues. This helps to ensure that all students who visit the health center are getting the highest level of care possible.

Additionally, a nursing staff that is diverse will naturally be made up of people who have different skills, abilities, and experiences to draw on. Nonclinical nursing skills, while they don’t directly relate to patient care, are crucial to effective care delivery. Because being exposed to other perspectives encourages team members to improve their communication skills, better “soft skills” are a bonus benefit that goes along with increased diversity.

College Campuses Need to Be Safe Spaces for All Students

College campuses have become much more diverse over the last few decades. In fact, college enrollment of non-white students has grown by 185.5% since 1976. However, the nursing staff on most campuses does not reflect this diversity.

When students visit the health center and don’t see any nurses with a similar background to their own, they might not feel safe confiding in their nurses about their physical or mental health challenges. A diverse nursing staff will find it easier to earn the trust of the student body, as students will know that some members of the nursing staff have had similar experiences in their lives.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of connection when it comes to providing effective healthcare. Different students will connect with different nurses, based on their own experiences and perspectives. By having a diverse nursing staff, campuses can help ensure that most students can easily connect with their healthcare providers when they need health services at school.

Overall, diversity helps to ensure that college campuses are safe spaces for all. Students with disabilities, different races, genders, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations should all be able to feel comfortable on campus, especially when they need healthcare.

Strategies for Achieving Diversity in Campus Nursing Staff

Understanding the need for diversity in campus nursing programs is the first crucial step, but it’s only the beginning. Achieving the outcome of a more diverse nursing staff requires planning and strategic action.

Schools can work toward their goals in a number of ways. Hiring practices, of course, need to change in order to bring on more staff members with diverse backgrounds. Addressing implicit biases in hiring and changing the approach to job postings to make them more visible and appealing to minority nurses are important for getting more diverse candidates.

Beyond hiring, the work environment will also need to change if schools want to retain diverse and talented nursing staff members. Creating a warm and inclusive environment, providing professional development opportunities, and promoting from within are all important strategies for building a positive work culture.

Overcoming Challenges and Barriers to Diversity

In the United States, almost 75% of registered nurses are white. In many cases, the difficulty of building a more diverse staff has to do with logistics. Schools have to identify diverse candidates within the talent pool and create an environment that makes these candidates want to accept an offer. Increased outreach for hiring is necessary to attract candidates who will make a school’s nursing program stronger.

Another challenge is often simple resistance to change: many people have unconscious biases or simply do not handle change well. Providing training and professional development can help, as does creating clear policies that encourage an environment of inclusion. This type of culture isn’t built overnight, but setting clear expectations for staff is a critical first step.

Improving Student Engagement, Well-Being, and Academic Success

Although nursing services are not used by all students, the care that campus nursing staff provides is incredibly important for those who do. Students come to college at a pivotal moment in their lives and there is a lot to manage. Sometimes, they struggle with balancing everything and need health support.

Students can only succeed if their basic needs are being met. One of those needs is health. Colleges and universities can support student engagement, well-being, and academic success by employing a diverse and caring nursing staff to help students reach their full potential.

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

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