Written by Doug Hampton

Data from nurses across the United States reveal culture of workplace and nursing school discrimination.

PRINCETON, N.J., May 31, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) examined nurses’ experiences and perceptions of racism and discrimination in healthcare settings and nursing schools through a survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The nationwide survey investigated the extent and severity of racism and discrimination happening around nurses, how often it’s reported, and the culture of the institutions where it occurs.

Among the key findings were that a majority of nurses say there is a high prevalence of racism and discrimination in the workplace, with about 8 in 10 saying they have experienced it from patients and about 6 in 10 saying the same about colleagues. The survey found that the groups most likely to experience microaggressions from patients are Asian, Black/African American, and Latino/Hispanic nurses.

Almost half (44%) of survey respondents also say there was a culture of racism in nursing school — with 60% of Black/African American respondents reporting racism/discrimination and nearly 8 in 10 saying that more DEI training was needed.

Although diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts became primary focal points for the nation in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the resulting racial justice movement, there has been little research on nurses’ experience and witnessing of discrimination.

“If we are to truly provide just and equitable care to our patients, we as nurses must hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior and work to change the systems that perpetuate racism and other forms of discrimination,” said Beth Toner, RN, director of program communications at RWJF.

The survey was conducted from March 2022April 2022 across a nationwide sample of 980 nurses representing a variety of demographics and workplace settings.

While a majority of respondents say their organizations are prioritizing DEI initiatives, very little formal reporting occurs when nurses or their patients experience racism. Fewer than 1 in 4 nurses report the discrimination they saw or experienced to management. Meanwhile, of those nurses who’ve seen or experienced racism or discrimination in the workplace, 9 in 10 say that witnessing or experiencing racism or discrimination has affected their mental health or wellbeing.

The survey respondents concluded that additional training and educational programs would be beneficial to addressing this problem, including at nursing schools where respondents reported a culture of racism exists. More than half of nurses say their nursing school taught about racial sensitivity in caring for patients, but less than one-third were taught about structural racism in healthcare, a topic that could benefit patients and employees alike.

The research highlights the need for extensive training and education on diversity in nursing schools and health systems and reveals a top-down urgency to implement reforms and responsive systems at the organizational level to address these issues.

Conducting this survey is part of RWJF’s efforts to identify, understand, confront, and remove the structural barriers to health and wellbeing, including racism, powerlessness, and discrimination, and their consequences.

These efforts aim to advance and accelerate conversations focused on structural racism and health with an expanded alliance. RWJF hopes these conversations can spur meaningful action to move the United States ever closer to realizing a Culture of Health, rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

About NORC
NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.  

SOURCE Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NORC

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