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National nursing group apologizes for intentional exclusion of Black nurses

In a unanimous vote, the American Nurses Association voted to adopt the ANA Racial Reckoning Statement.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Back in 1916, the American Nurses Association (ANA) "purposefully, systemically and systematically excluded Black nurses." Now, more than a century later, the ANA wants to hold themselves accountable and seek forgiveness. Chief Nursing Officer Shellisa Houston Martin with Houston Medical Center says apologizing is good, but it may not be enough.

"It's not going to heal all the wounds to the 'nurses of color.' I do feel like we've acknowledged that they've done so," Houston Martin said.

Last week, the ANA released an apology letter to Black nurses for not taking action when nurses of color were not represented in educational and work spaces. They say they are seeking "forgiveness from nurses of color, the nursing profession and the communities that have been harmed by our actions." ANA has put a list together to right their wrongs and one of them in being transparent in the race and ethnic makeup of their board members, leadership and staff. Houston Martin believes an improvement in those areas is a start.

"We've always, as a nurse of color, have had to work a little bit harder than others, to get certain roles like leadership roles or whatever, but I think most of us that have come to that level are dedicated to it and have worked really hard to do that. I do think ANA should support that and recognize that," she said.

Other improvement areas include diversifying their governance structure, continue to partner with the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing by creating antiracist practices and environments and advocate for more representation and inclusion in educational nursing material. Houston Martin says while she believes in forgiveness.

"I do believe if they represent themselves well and start to be inclusive of nurses of color, I do feel like they would have a stronger organization," Houston Martin said.

Houston Martin decided she was going to be a nurse after seeing her grandfather in the hospital when she was about 12 years old. She says it was her surroundings that influenced her decision.

"Just looking on to the nurses and the things that they did and the dedication to the patients kind of drove that desire in me."

According to a survey on nursingworld.org, 63% of all nurses say they've experienced racism on the job from coworkers and supervisors. Three out of four nurses witness racism in the workplace.

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