Minority Nurse Review of Real Nurses and Others

Real Nurses and Others
Racism in Nursing

By Tania Das Gupta  

The quote from the author Tania Gupta that adorns the back cover of Real Nurses and Others: Racism in Nursing pulls no punches about what readers will find inside. “Most nurses of color experience everyday forms of racism, including being infantilized and marginalized,” she writes. “Most [nurses interviewed for the book] reported being ‘put down,’ insulted or degraded because of [their] race/ ethnicity/ color.” Das Gupta is a Canadian sociologist and activist whose previous book, Racism and Paid Work, included a chapter on racial discrimination in Canada’s nursing wokforce. Real Nurses and Others, which began as a study commissioned by the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ANO)’s Racially Diverse Caucus, expands on this earlier research to present a full-length examination of systemic racism in nursing, based in part on surverys and interviews with nearly 600 ONA members, both minority and majority. Although the book focuses ezclusively on Canada, American readers -including nursing staff, managers, administrators and hospital diversity directors- can also learn much from Das Gupta’ analysis of the many subtle and not-so-subtle ways racial/ethnic disrimination manifests itself in today’s nursing workplace. For example the title Real Nurses and Others refers to a black interviewee’s comment that white patients and family membres routinely treated her as is she was a nursing assistant or aide rather than a “real” (i.e white) nurse-a situation that all too many American nurses of color relate to. Das Gupta presents what she calls an “intersectional analytical framework” for understanding how a why workplace racism can occure in heath care institutions. but Real Nurses and Others really comes alive when it focuses on the case studies and personal testimonials of the many nurses who reported experiencing discrimination from colleagues, managers, patients, doctors and others because of their race/ethnicity. the book documents many examples of “everyday racism” -e.g., targeting, scapegoating, excessive monitoring and blaming the victim-as well as “how fear, lack of support, management collaboration, coworker harassment and ineffective institutional responses make it difficult for victims of racism to fight back” The slim (128-page) book does have a few shortcomings. There is no research data on Aboriginal (First Nations) nurses, an admittedly small but still important part of Canada’s minority nursing workforce. And while Real Nurses and Others does an excellent job of discussing the problem of racism in nursing, I would have liked to see Das Gupta go one step further by proposing some recommendations and solutions. But all in all, this brave and provacative book makes fascinating reading-especially for those in the nursing profession who are not afraid to engage in honest dialogue about a serious issue that is all too often swept under the rug.

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