Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Background

Racism and cultural oppression have been realities for many minority groups living in Canada, especially the First Nations’ peoples with longstanding impacts of poverty, poor health, loss of identity and marginalization.  This realty, a part of all aspects of Canadian society, is clearly evident in our health care work environment. Nurses from visible and non-visible minority groups, working across Canada in different health care environments, speak of their experiences of discrimination and racism and the challenges of working effectively in such environments.

The challenge of diversity, which has been with us for generations, must clearly be addressed for the future such that it is no longer acceptable to engage in practices or tolerate attitudes that limit the potential of many fellow Canadians. This becomes especially important in health care where we face serious recruitment and retention challenges in nursing and other health care professions.

Cultural diversity in its broadest sense must be addressed in order to create a truly integrated health care workforce that embraces all types of diversity. Minorities, whether they be Canadians of colour, First Nations’ peoples, physically challenged, homosexual, etc., have made clear that there are ways and times they have felt unwelcome in nursing, in health care and in the workplace. They talk about treatment in the workplace that feels uncomfortable – either due to outward hostility or subtle discrimination. And although the health care workforce is becoming more diverse, this diversity may not always be reflected in senior leadership and middle management levels.