Looking in the Mirror, Not Through the Window

Exploring the Impact of Minority Nurses

In nursing school, most of us recall learning about Florence Nightingale, known as the "Lady with the Lamp," and all of her efforts to improve sanitation, healthcare reform through education, and advance the nursing profession.

She was British, from an affluent family, had access to nursing education, and quickly succeeded in her nursing career. While her legacy and impact are to be admired, for minority nurses, Florence Nightingale only serves as a window- allowing minority nurses and students to see out but not see themselves.

The impact that minority nurses have had on the profession is not discussed as part of nursing history. Nursing schools can promote diversity and inclusion by critically appraising their philosophies, curricula, and instructional strategies for evidence of embedded Whiteness that implicitly perpetuates racism (Bonini & Matias, 2021).

Incorporating the impact of minority nurses on the profession can help serve as a mirror instead of the window- allowing and encouraging minority nurses and nursing students to see themselves equally as pioneers and innovators for the nursing profession.

A role model allows us to "see it in order to believe it"; thus, minority representation can motivate nurses to begin to position themselves in the places of those who we revere (Owoseni, 2020).

Here are a few examples of minority nurses who can serve as "mirrors":

Harriet Tubman - While she was known for her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she was also a nurse who cared for sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War, all without pay nor pension. In her 70's she established The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes in 1908, where she became a patient until her death. She is set to be remembered by having her face replace Andrew Jackson's on the $20 bill. (In Praise of Harriet Tubman, 2016).

Harriet Tubman

Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde - Born in Panama, she came to the United States and worked as a nurse in San Antonio, Texas. She identified that there were few Latinx nurses and worked to establish the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) to help advocate and meet the needs of Hispanic nurses. She worked as a psychiatric nurse and went on to earn her Ph.D., focusing on improving cultural awareness of Hispanic health and supporting Latinx nurses. (Villarruel, 2017).

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail - Born on the Crow Reservation, she was the first American Indian nurse to graduate from a nursing program. She served as a midwife and an advocate for the Indian people. She focused on eradicating the suffering and healthcare abuses of Crow women, including forced sterilization without consent and infant mortality. She helped fight health inequities and was appointed to national health advisory committees to advocate for the healthcare needs of the Indian people. (Schaller, 2015). 

The nurses overcame challenges to impact the profession. What about these nurse's stories inspire you?

EBonini, S. M., & Matias, C. E. (2021). The impact of Whiteness on the education of nurses. Journal of Professional Nursing, 37(3), 620–625. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2021.02.009

Owoseni, A. V. (2020). From portraits to role models: Why we need black physicians in academic medicine. The New England Journal of Medicine, 383(23), 2204–2205. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp2027850

In Praise of Harriet Tubman; Nurse, Spy, Abolitionist. (2016). Holistic Nursing Practice, 30(4), 191–191. https://doi.org/10.1097/HNP.0000000000000155

Schaller, K. (2015). Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail: Elected to nursing hall of fame. Indian Life, 36(3), 18.

Villarruel, A. M. (2017). A framework for Latino nursing leadership. Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(4), 347–352. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894318417724476

Please visit the Help Center with any questions you may have about Publications.

Help Center


Join AMSN Today

Med-Surg Monitoring