Key Takeaways From ANA’s Racial Reckoning Statement

Ann Feeney
Updated August 22, 2022
    The American Nurses Association issued a formal apology for its history of racism in nursing. Learn about the statement on racial reckoning in nursing and its implications.
    Featured ImageCredit: Getty Images
    • On June 11, 2022, the governing body of the American Nurses Association (ANA) adopted the ANA Racial Reckoning Statement.
    • The statement acknowledges ANA’s past actions that fostered inequity and racism in nursing and announces its commitment to address racism through specific steps.
    • The statement on racial reckoning in nursing is part of ANA’s journey toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing.

    The ANA’s Membership Assembly, the governing and official voting body of the American Nurses Association, voted unanimously to make a statement to acknowledge its history of fostering racism in nursing and its impact. The statement commits ANA to specific actions to continue the journey toward reconciliation.

    Examine how statements like these can help address racism in nursing and steps other organizations can take toward racial equity.

    What Is the ANA Racial Reckoning Statement?

    The statement on racial reckoning in nursing outlines ANA’s past acts of racism and times when ANA should have but did not address racism in nursing: “From 1916 until 1964, ANA purposefully, systemically, and systematically excluded Black nurses.”

    It also points out the ongoing impact of this and less tangible policies and behaviors. It says, for example, that the “full inclusion of Black nurses within ANA leadership and decision-making remains unrealized and elusive for all nurses of color.”

    The statement explicitly seeks forgiveness and announces specific actions and measures that ANA will take to address racism in nursing. Other organizations can use the statement and steps as models for their own next steps.

    Why Is This Racial Reckoning Important?

    ANA issued its statement on racial reckoning in nursing to acknowledge the past harms that it caused and to seek reconciliation and forgiveness. The organization believes that acknowledging the past is the first step toward building an equitable future where representation in nursing matters.

    How ANA Plans to Move Forward

    Both the ANA board of directors and ANA have committed to specific actions. The board of directors promises to:

    • Continue its racial reckoning in nursing and apologize for the harms that it caused
    • Work with nurse associations that represent underrepresented ethnic populations to seek reconciliation
    • Consider the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) impact of its policies and positions
    • Start an oral history project to capture the history and contributions of nurses of color to ANA and nursing

    In addition to these commitments from the board, ANA promises to:

    • Continue its engagement in the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing
    • Report race and ethnicity in its publications and advocate for other organizations to do the same
    • Advocate for representation and inclusion in educational materials
    • Engage in a DEI program within ANA
    • Report the racial and ethnic makeup of ANA board, leaders, and staff
    • Build diversity into its volunteer and governance structures
    • Deliberately work to build diversity within ANA’s volunteer and governance structure

    Systemic Racism in Nursing

    Racism affects nurses and the patients they treat. It limits nurses’ ability to advance in their profession, treat their patients effectively, and maintain their own health and wellness. More than 75% of Black nurses report that racism in the workplace has negatively affected their professional well-being. While nursing and nurses alone cannot address the harm and costs of racism, nurses can advocate for equity and build their own understanding.

    Issuing a statement and exploring racial reckoning in nursing can address racism and its harms by:

    • Educating leadership, staff, and other stakeholders on the roots of racism in an organization and the actions, or lack of action, that might permit racism
    • Inspiring the desire to make amends and do better
    • Fostering healing by seeking forgiveness

    How Other Organizations Can Address Systemic Racism

    Understanding the past, acknowledging past actions or inaction, and committing to racial reckoning in nursing are just a first step. To fully address racism in nursing, organizations must follow through with actions. In addition to the types of actions that ANA has committed to, other organizations can:

    • Study their cultural climate, cultural competence in nursing, and staff satisfaction to understand the experiences and perspectives of their leaders and staff
    • Educate staff on racism in nursing, both overt acts and the more subtle impact of hidden racism and bias, and their impact
    • Make sure that mentorship nursing programs are designed for DEI
    • Empower nursing staff to develop plans and recommend actions to address racism in nursing (Empowerment means not just permission but providing resources and active support for these efforts.)
    • Train staff on actions that they can take to address overt racism and microaggressions
    • Elevate the voices and experiences of nurses from all racial and ethnic backgrounds

    Racism in nursing did not come from one action or set of actions, and fighting it will take more than one action or set of actions. But by recognizing and fighting racism, organizations can benefit through deeper staff engagement, higher nurse job satisfaction and nurse retention, and better outcomes for patients and communities.