Letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, by Jackie Campbell, RN, PhD, FAAN
February 7, 2002
I am writing to express my concern and make a suggestion about your campaign "Take a loved one to the Doctor Day." The exclusion of nurses and nurse-practitioners from the major message of the campaign is troubling. One of the issues we have in recruiting minority ethnic nurses to the profession (as is recommended by the recent IOM report) is the continued emphasis (in primary and secondary schools and the community) on medicine as the preferred health related profession for outstanding students of color. Medicine also needs these students in their ranks, but for some of them, medicine is not a viable career trajectory for a host of complex reasons. Yet nursing is not put forward as the exciting and equally desirable alternative - if anything it is considered a poor second choice if the medical route fails.
A campaign such as this continues this emphasis to nursing's detriment in a time of grave national shortages. Perhaps an additional campaign is needed - one that talks about the rewards and intellectual challenges of several of the health care professions - including nursing - showing the full spectrum of educational routes and professional roles of each - with a strong emphasis on the opportunities for students from ethnic minority backgrounds. As was pointed out in the recent IOM report on minority health care issues, one of the routes to decreasing disparities is increasing the training of ethnic minority students to ALL kinds health care professionals. Such a campaign would also be helpful in combating the nursing shortage. Meanwhile, I hope you will add to your current campaign, pictorial images of nurses and physicians working together side by side when seeing the patients that are brought by their loved ones to health care settings.