California falls short in recruiting Latina, African-American nurses

California's nursing corps has a diversity problem, especially when it comes to African-American and Latina nurses, KQED News reports.

Latinos represent 39 percent of the state's population, but just 8 percent of its nurses. At 4 percent, the proportion of black nurses is closer to the 6 percent of the population blacks represent, but still falls short.

National numbers are no better. Black nurses make up 5.4 percent of 2.5 million registered nurses nationwide, while Latino nurses make up just 3.6 percent. Hiring minority nurses and other healthcare professionals will help make minority patients feel more at ease and more likely to seek help when they experience health problems, experts say. 

"Clearly we are lacking African-American and Latina nurses," David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA's medical school, told the station. "Having them in the workforce will … make for better patient care [and] better language communication."

Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, which has one of the state's three largest nursing programs, wants to train more nursing decision-makers of color including RNs, case managers and nurse practitioners, Chief Diversity Officer Shirley Strong told the station. In addition to providing traditional financial aid, she said, the university plans to create an emergency fund to help disadvantaged nursing students with unexpected financial challenges.

Other experts contend the industry also needs to recruit and hire more male nurses to diversify the workforce and bring their perspectives to the profession. Men represented 9.6 percent of the nursing workforce in 2011, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the KQED story