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Nursing association puts forward recommendations to combat anti-Black racism in industry

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The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) has been examining anti-Black discrimination in the profession and recently announced 19 recommendations it hopes will improve the situation for nurses and the health-care system.

The RNAO put together the Black Nurses Task Force in June 2020, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun says they felt driven as an organization to do something — and believed action should start within their own group.

On Tuesday they put forward their list of recommendations, chief among them equitable and fair placements for all Black nurses. Task Force Co-Chair Corsita Garraway says a disproportionate number are placed in long-term care or doing the work of personal support workers for example, preventing from getting experience in other, more specialized areas.

Another recommendation — more mentorship for Black nurses to help them reach more leadership positions.

“I have attended three different universities - one in Newfoundland, one in Manitoba and Toronto,” RNAO past president Angela Cooper Brathwaite said. “And I have never had a Black professor in any of my courses.”

The RNAO wants to advocate for diversity in leadership and education roles in nursing, as well as more mental health supports for Black nurses.

“It causes so much trauma and nurses jobs are stressful without the addition of having your peers and supervisors being racist towards you,” Cooper Brathwaite said.

She and others recall being questioned about their curly hair, their accent and their place of birth in the course of their nursing education and work. They say discriminatory behaviour hasn’t changed much. Many Black nurses told the task force about losing out on promotions, job opportunities and interviews because of discrimination.

The task force is calling for “zero tolerance” of anti-Black racism in nursing and are planning to become an advisory committee in order to follow up on its recommendations.

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