What is with the recent devaluing of nurses that I’ve seen lately on social media? More specifically on black twitter. Why is it a problem that black women want to be nurses? Why am I seeing tweets like the ones pictured? Has the black community tricked people into becoming nurses? Is something wrong with wanting a stable, well paying career? Is the slander because nursing is a woman dominated field that black women are now showing greater interest in? Do ya’ll do any research before ya’ll say things?? Clearly I had tons of questions, so I decided to do a little research myself.
First, let me start of by saying ALL members of the healthcare team are important & integral to providing care. There should be no shame in or shame of being a certified nurses aide (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), respiratory therapist (RT) or any of the many careers one could occupy in healthcare.
So, is nursing an easy career choice? Is it a cop-out to becoming “something more (i.e. doctor)?” The qualities a person wants in a career, & the things that impact them getting there (affordability, accessibility, etc.) may be determining factors in which career path they choose. Nursing isn’t a cop-out choice, it’s its own profession.
Know that becoming a nurse is no easy task. Nursing is a science. It requires education in biology, chemistry, research & mathematics, in addition to other general education courses. Many nursing programs have limited space, so getting into nursing school can also be very competitive. Qualifications include passing pre-nursing school exams with acceptable scores, high GPA’s & A’s in the required science courses. Once you’re in school you now have to face the nursing courses. These are the courses that teach nurses the foundation of how to do what they do & they are exhausting. If & when a student reaches graduation, they must sit for the NCLEX-RN (RN for registered nurses, PN for practical nurses) to receive state licensure. Registered nurse programs can be 2 years for associate degree (really 2.5 -3 years in order to complete the required courses necessary to apply to the program) or 4 years for a bachelors degree. Either way, if you’ve ever had a friend or family member in nursing school, or gone through it yourself, you know how hard. emotionally, mentally & physically draining that shit is!
Do a lot of black women want to be nurses? This is hard to gauge because what people want changes from day to day. However, we can look at the data we have available for nursing school enrollment. From 2009 to 2018, black nursing program enrollment peaked at 12.9% in 2012 before dropping over the next 4 years. Enrollment began going back up in 2018 & was reported at 11.8% (see details here). Something else to take into account is the college majors typically chosen by African Americans. Let me point out first, that I am not citing this study to shame anyone’s career choice. A study released by Georgetown University in 2016 showed that black college students pursuing bachelors degrees typically choose majors that lead to low paying careers despite (deserving more pay, in my opinion, in respect to) the level of education they receive. The study also highlighted the top 10 most lucrative careers, which included nursing, for black graduates and none of those majors were among the top chosen majors.
Personally, I view a lot of black women wanting to become nurses as a positive thing, especially when we consider the healthcare disparities for black people & an increase in black practitioners can assist in improving that. I think more black men should consider it as a career choice too. What I am more concerned with is whether or not they are able to pursue that goal. Despite the ignorantly perceived “ease” of nursing school, many barriers still exist for minorities having access to & being successful in nursing as a major, just as with STEM & other healthcare professions.
Nursing can be lucrative career for black women (& men) with many benefits. If you are an aspiring nurse, don’t let statements like the ones posted throughout social media discourage or deter you. Nursing as a career provides job stability, growth opportunities & offers a wide range of career opportunities under the nursing umbrella. However, just as with anything else in life, nursing as a profession come with a gift basket of its own issues. Also, it isn’t & won’t be for everyone.
I personally love seeing black healthcare workers throughout the hospital. I feel a sense of pride when I’m the black RN in the room with a black doctor, black respiratory therapist, black phlebotomist, etc. I enjoy hearing black patients comment on how proud they are to see black healthcare staff. We can encourage each other to pursue reliable, well paying careers while still being supportive of, & without devaluing, individual career goals & choices.