Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Mahoney’s Nurses: The Philosophical Consequence of Racism in Nursing (#10)

Jitana P Benton-Lee 1
  1. Northern Kentucky University, Lexington, KY, United States

Racism in American nursing is a historical problem established well before Elizabeth Mahoney became the first Black professional nurse in 1829. Social and historical constructs of race have permeated American society since colonization and have quickly indoctrinated the nursing profession. Back then, nurses were segregated and isolated across color lines – separate but not equal. Now, the nursing profession is desegrated and equal, but there are underlying equity issues due to unresolved race relations.

 Structural racism in U.S. healthcare systems developed from historical constructs of race that have resulted in policies and practices that further divide nurses ethnically. Subsequently, this adversely impacts the career potential of Black nurses while hampering White nurses’ abilities to interact with diverse patient populations. The imbalance between reduced numbers of Black nurses in the profession and the low cultural proficiency of White nurses has led to greater health disparities for racially marginalized communities.

Social constructs of race are evident in the interpersonal racial conflict between nurses, such as bias, microaggression, and incivility, which harms both white nurses and nurses of color. We misjudge and remain in constant conflict, limiting our ability to work collaboratively to improve population health, stop dehumanization, and ensure health justice for all. Nurse relations must align with Mahoney’s plight to eliminate racial discrimination from the profession to ensure optimal nurse performance and patient health outcomes.

This poster presentation philosophically analyzes how race’s social and historical constructs hurt American nursing by utilizing the critical philosophy of race. Race, racism, and racial differences are social constructs in nursing that should be examined critically to determine how Mahoney’s vision of full integration can be achieved. Highly visible in this work is how the critical philosophy of race offers an antiracism approach to addressing the negative consequences of racism in nursing.