Go Back To Where You Came From: The Plight of Minority Nurses

sad female nurse

Go Back To Where You Came From: The Plight of Minority Nurses

Discrimination is illegal; unless of course, a patient requests a different nurse in a healthcare setting because of racial preferences. This practice has existed for years, and it is healthcare’s “open secret.” Minority nurses also deal with lower salaries, hostile workplaces, and less access to professional development.

The American Medical Association has a clear code of behavior for doctors, which bars a doctor from refusing to treat patients because of race, gender, or another legally protected class. No policies provide the etiquette for dealing with race-based requests for another nurse from a patient. Granted, patients retain the right to request a different nurse because the patient is the manager of his or her health.

“In general, I don’t think honoring prejudicial preferences…is morally justifiable” for a health care institution, said Dr. Susan Goold, a University of Michigan professor. “That said, you can’t cure bigotry…There may be times when grudgingly acceding to a patient’s strongly held preferences is morally OK.”

Obviously, the argument circling the health industry is a complicated one. Discrimination of any person should be illegal, but patients often report better care from a same race nurse. Meanwhile, some patients have faced intense abuse, and it’s better for their recovery to have the requested caregiver.

The law protects nurses from racial discrimination. A nurse who experiences unnecessary discrimination due to race should consider available legal solutions to this ongoing problem. Contact an employment lawyer about minority nurse discrimination.

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How The Numbers Show Minority Discrimination

Although blatant discrimination is rare, studies show that minority groups are passed over for promotions and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, race often influences pay as well. Minorities also suffer discrimination from other minorities. In an effort to assimilate to the majority race, minorities often absorb the discriminatory attitude towards other races.

The American Nurses Association published a study, which surveyed over 5,000 nurses of multiple races (2002). The group included Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, American Indians, and Caucasians. Many of the minority nurses reported experiencing issues in trying to progress in their nursing career. Moreover, 59% of African American, 53% of Asian, and 46% of Hispanic nurses shared that they believe they were denied a promotion due to their race.

Nurse salaries also are impacted by race. In the United States, nurses who earn more than $120,000 per year are most likely to be Caucasians. In fact, more than 90% are Caucasian while 4% are black and only 2% are Hispanic or Asian.

These statistics reveal a difficult problem facing the nursing industry. Although some might argue that not enough blacks, Hispanics, or Asians are present in the industry to rise to the top, others recognize that certain stereotypes hold these minority nurses back from promotions and pay raises. A discrimination attorney can help minority nurses explore their legal options under the law.

Do Minorities Discriminate Against Other Minority Nurses?

Absolutely. A common response to majority oppression of minorities is that a minority nurse who receives seniority tries to assimilate to the values held by the majority. In this bid for acceptance by the majority, the minority nurse leader discriminates sometimes much more harshly against other minorities. Therefore, minority nurses should be aware of employment discrimination from other minorities as well.

It’s All in the Name

Despite the popular motto of “don’t judge a book by its cover,” people do just that on a daily basis with people. Not only are other humans judged by skin color, but they are also discriminated against because of their given name. Ethnic names, instead of a proud badge of heritage, often hinder minority nurses from being hired.

In fact, a number of articles point out that those named “Josh” or “Anne” have a much higher chance of being approached for a job than “La-a” or “Wang.” One study showed that when a white name accompanied a resume, a return call happened within 10 resumes. On the other hand, a black name only received a call after about 15 resumes had been submitted.

“Discrimination therefore appears to bite twice, making it harder not only for African-Americans to find a job but also to improve their employability.” Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?

Job applications don’t require that a job applicant supplies their given name. A given name is only required for a background check and other necessary paperwork. In some cases, applying for a job with a common nickname might be in the best interest of the job applicant.

Minority Nurse Discrimination: Examples of Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination comes in many forms for minority nurses. After all, not only do they deal with discrimination from their coworkers, but they sometimes face discrimination from patients, too. Employment discrimination of legally protected classes, such as race or color, is against the law. An employment discrimination attorney helps minority nurses fight for their employee rights.

Harassment of a Minority Nurse

Daiyu, a nurse with Chinese background, began working at a hospital where all of her coworkers are white. As she assisted a doctor with a patient, the doctor mumbled under his breath, “go back where you came from.” Startled, Daiyu double checked to make sure the doctor was speaking to her. Daiyu was born and raised in the United States.

Baby’s Father Discriminates against Black Nurses

Tonya Battle, a black nurse at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, claims that on the assignment clipboard, a note declared, “No African-American nurse to take care of baby.” Although the note was removed, no black nurses were assigned to that child for a month. When Tonya did get assigned to the baby, the father immediately demanded to see her supervisor. Tonya filed a lawsuit and the hospital settled it soon after. (Battle v. Hurley Medical Center, et al., 2013)

Filipino Nurses Suffer Language Discrimination

Filipino nurses at Delano Regional Medical Center, a Central California hospital, were ordered to speak “English only.” Administrators and coworkers alike mocked their accents, and a few were followed by security guards and housekeepers. Elnora Cayme shared, “I asked the guard why he did that and he said, ‘We were told to watch you and report you.'” The EEOC filed a lawsuit against this minority nurse discrimination, and Delano Regional Medical Center settled. (EEOC v. Central California Foundation for Health d/b/a Delano Regional Medical Center, 2010)

What To Do About Minority Nurse Discrimination

The government in conjunction with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines specific ways to combat employment discrimination. Discrimination of a legally protected class is against the law. Minority nurses have a few tools at their disposal for dealing with employment discrimination for race or skin color.

1. Observe discriminatory behavior.

A hospital might be in the habit of only promoting white nurses. Or, perhaps, the hospital is forced to terminate some workers and only fires Hispanics. Certain patterns might reveal employment discrimination.

2. Document everything.

When a minority nurse suffers discriminatory behavior, the nurse should document the event, including the names of the harassers as well as the witnesses. Document date, time, location, and any other necessary facts. Another safeguard is to keep documentation in a safe place, not at work.

3. Save work evaluations.

In some cases, an employer tries to sabotage the believability of a discrimination complaint by claiming poor work performance from the minority nurse. Keep work performance reports in a safe place outside of the workplace.

4. Check employee handbook for filing a complaint in-house.

Depending on the situation, a minority nurse can report the incident to the direct supervisor. However, if that individual was a part of the discriminatory behavior, the nurse should report to the next person in authority or the Human Relations department.

5. Contact a discrimination lawyer.

If no significant change is made within the workplace after reporting discrimination, contact an attorney. An attorney knows the legal solutions open to a minority nurse and helps strategize the right legal path for the discriminatory situation.


If you are a minority nurse and have experienced racial discrimination of any type, contact a discrimination attorney now to hear your legal options.

Chat with a discrimination attorney: (412) 626-5626 or lawyer@lawkm.com.