Nearly 80% of nurses have witnessed or been victims of racism or discrimination from patients—and nearly 60% from colleagues—according to a May 2023 Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation report published in partnership with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

On the RWJ Foundation’s national survey of nurses’ perceptions and experiences of discrimination and racism in both the workplace and nursing schools, participants reported several key factors:

  • Black and African American nurses experienced the highest incidences (88% and 72% from patients and colleagues, respectively), followed by Asian nurses (86% and 65%, respectively).
  • More than 50% received nursing school education about providing ethnically and culturally sensitive direct care to their patients, but less than 30% were taught about systemic racism, racial bias, and stereotypes in the profession or in health care overall.
  • Two-thirds see or experience racial or ethnic microaggressions from patients, and nearly half say it’s from colleagues.
  • Only 40% said that they discussed the events with their supervisors, and just 23% formally documented or reported the incidents.
  • More than 90% of all respondents said that the events affected their mental well-being, with Asian and Black or African American nurses reporting the highest effects, respectively.
  • Although 90% said that equitable patient outcomes are an organizational priority at their workplace, but fewer employers are engaging systemic educational approaches and nearly a quarter aren’t prioritizing diverse leadership.

Recognizing racism, bigotry, and hatred in the profession and healthcare system is the first step. Nurses are leading by directly addressing the problem and seeking avenues for solutions.