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Microaggressions: A Weight on the Success of Graduate Nursing Students of Color


Background: The Institute of Medicine (renamed the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine) suggests diversifying the health profession workforce as a strategy to mediate health disparities related to provider bias and prejudice. Microaggressions, a subtle form of discrimination, have been proven to be just as psychologically detrimental to racial minorities as flagrant discrimination. Research has found the experience of microaggressions in nursing education to be associated with decreased wellness and satisfaction. However, little is known about the effects of microaggressions on graduate nursing students of color. Although the success of all students is essential, graduated prepared nurses specifically have the ability to reduce health disparities as educators, care providers, researchers, and leaders.

Purpose: To examine the prevalence of microaggressions and the impact on satisfaction and symptoms of depression in graduate nursing students of color.

Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional study using a descriptive survey with questions adapted from a 16-item Racial and Ethnic Microaggressions Scale and the two-item Patient Health Questionnaire to measure symptoms of depression. Six questions were generated to measure participants’ satisfaction with nursing training. The study sample (n=130) consisted of 98 White, eight Black or African American, three American Indian or Alaska Native, 18 Asian, and three Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander participants. A total of eight (n=8) participants reported having Hispanic or Latino(a) origin.

Results: The data revealed an inverse correlation between the greater self-reported experience of microaggressions and lesser satisfaction with graduate nursing training. Also, a positive correlation between the greater self-reported experience of microaggressions and greater symptoms of depression was identified. No significant difference in the prevalence of self-reported microaggressions between non-Latino White students and students of color was discovered.

Conclusion: This study shows the need for continued education for faculty and staff of nursing institutions to create a more culturally inclusive environment for graduate nursing students. The addition of a curriculum focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion will not only support the success of graduate nursing students of color but will benefit the success of all the student body by increasing diversity and creating a more culturally competent workforce.

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