The reverberations of grief and anger that swept the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in police custody touched nearly every facet of American life, including the realms of education and health care. Self-reflection and soul-searching around issues of social justice and systemic racism became imperative to moving our society toward more just and inclusive terrain. Although it has an established track record of fostering diversity and inclusion in its student body, the University of Arizona College of Nursing was no exception.
UArizona Nursing Dean Ki Moore, PhD, RN, FAAN, marked Juneteenth with an announcement to all faculty, staff and students, pledging to implement efforts to examine the College’s own commitment to social justice. “As an institution dedicated to educating nurses and promoting health and wellbeing, we have a duty to stand up for social justice, recognize and call out instances of injustice, and proactively work toward a better and more healthy society for all,” she wrote. As a start, she announced a College-wide diversity, inclusion and equity forum, which will be held for all faculty and staff at the beginning of the fall semester.
“As future nurses, we believe that our ability to provide quality care depends on understanding the past, current, and future impacts of systemic racism and injustice in healthcare,” ~ UArizona Nursing MEPN students from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Tucson cohorts and the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Phoenix cohorts
Continuing this constructive dialog, in July a group of Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN) students comprised of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Tucson cohorts and the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Phoenix cohorts sent an open letter to UArizona Nursing administration and faculty. They commended Dean Moore’s statement and provided calls to action to further ensure the College’s commitment to combating systemic racism.
“As future nurses, we believe that our ability to provide quality care depends on understanding the past, current, and future impacts of systemic racism and injustice in healthcare,” the students wrote in their statement. “Throughout the MEPN program, we have recognized the need for increased discussion of race and diversity, increased historical context for healthcare information, and increased cultural sensitivity training. We propose modifying the curriculum to address these inadequacies. Doing so will produce well-rounded nurses able to positively impact their future patients and institutions.”
In their letter, the MEPN students called for integrating inclusive health justice education into the current MEPN curriculum, providing a framework for incorporating health justice curriculum into the nursing program in general, and supporting the College’s ability to produce well-rounded, anti-racist nurses. The result, they said, would be to “positively influence current UA CON students and faculty, a future generation of nurses, and all related future patients and healthcare institutions.”
The students provided a framework for moving UArizona in this positive direction. They assembled a list of relevant videos, UArizona-affiliated speakers, perspective pieces, and evidence based articles that could readily be integrated into current MEPN curriculum. They also included anti-racism resources for UArizona Nursing educators to aid in better embodying these principles and incorporating them into their language. The students also emphasized the need for interprofessional exchange on these topics between the College of Nursing, the College of Medicine and the College of Public Health.
The students concluded by stating, “As nursing students who will graduate with a Masters degree, we understand the power we hold to make changes in the profession. We hope the College of Nursing can help us achieve this potential with a thorough and well-thought out antiracist and health justice focused curriculum. We value our relationships with our faculty and clinical instructors and look up to them as role models in the field of nursing.”