are being drawn to nursing, especially as a second career, the profession needs to continue efforts to recruit men; their unique perspectives and skills are important to the profession and will help contribute additional diversity to the workforce.
To better meet the current and future health needs of the public and to provide more culturally relevant care, the current nursing workforce will need to grow more diverse. Previous IOM reports have found that greater racial and ethnic diversity among providers leads to stronger relationships with patients in nonwhite communities. These reports argue that the benefits of such diversity are likely to be felt across health professions and to grow as the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse (IOM, 2004, 2006). The IOM’s report Unequal Treatment: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care identifies the diversification of the health care workforce as an important step toward responding to racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system (IOM, 2003). Because nurses make up the largest proportion of the health care workforce and work across virtually every health care and community-based setting, changing the demographic composition of nurses has the potential to effect changes in the face of health care in America.
Although nurses need to develop the ability to communicate and interact with people from differing backgrounds, the demographic characteristics of the nursing workforce should be closer to those of the population at large to foster better interaction and communication (AACN, 2010a). The 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN) documented the lack of diversity in the nursing workforce, with 5.4 percent of nurses describing themselves as Black/African American, 3.6 percent as Hispanic/Latino, 5.8 percent as Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 0.3 percent as American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1.7 percent as multiracial (HRSA, 2010). Figure 3-9 compares the racial/ethnic diversity of RNs with that of the U.S. population.
Numerous programs nationwide are aimed at increasing the number of health professionals from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. One program that seeks to increase diversity while also responding to the health needs of underserved populations is the Harambee Nursing Center (HNC) in Louisville, Kentucky (AAN, 2010c). The name refers to an African tribal word that means “let’s pull together.” HNC was founded in 2003 by the University of Louisville School of Nursing, in partnership with the University of Louisville hospital and several religious groups, “to improve the health of the approximately 11,000 lowincome, primarily African-American, urban, underserved Smoketown-Shelby Park-Phoenix Hill neighborhood” (Roberts and Hayes, 2005). It is managed by nurses with the help of a volunteer family practice physician. Since its inception, a goal of the program has included attracting greater numbers of minority persons into nursing and other health professions and providing opportunities to enhance