Newswise — At a time when our nation is struggling to address systemic racism and the inequities that have long plagued communities of color, it is truly unsettling to see the recent Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, which calls for restrictions on diversity training offered at federal agencies. Though the impact this may have on nursing schools has yet to be determined, this action diminishes the importance of exposing discrimination, sexism, and injustice as well as the work underway to find common ground through education and self-assessment. In this time of a growing social movement and awareness on the need for change, now is not the time to retreat from strategies that help individuals and communities come together and co-create a future that addresses disparities and celebrates diversity and respect for all.

As academic nursing leaders, we understand the integral role education plays in bringing marginalized groups and allies together. Moving towards a more diverse and inclusive nursing profession is essential to meeting the healthcare needs of the nation and reducing health disparities that for too long have existed among many underserved populations.

As a core value and a central component of AACN’s strategic plan, enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion is at the forefront of our advocacy work and educational programming. AACN is leveraging its resources and reach to address this national priority given the strong connection between a diverse healthcare workforce and the ability to offer quality, culturally competent patient care. Education and training are key components of this work and are effective tools for breaking down barriers and bridging gaps.

For example, AACN’s work to advance holistic admission reviews and training in unconscious bias is helping to create more inclusive learning environments in nursing schools across the country. Representatives from our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Group are collaborating to update our curriculum standards on cultural humility, which will help to ensure that we benefit from the best thinking of diversity officers and professionals who are leading this work in academic settings. Critical conversations on how to embed standards related to cultural competency/humility/responsiveness, social determinants of health, and social justice are shaping the development of the re-envisioned AACN Essentials, which will impact the development of baccalaureate, master’s, and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs and better equip future nurses to care for an increasingly diverse general population. These discussions certainly  will continue at our upcoming Diversity Symposium where nurse faculty and thought leaders will come together for provocative and profound discussions on our preferred future.

The work toward achieving inclusive excellence is only beginning. AACN is proud to stand with our colleagues in the health professions and the larger higher education community in calling for more education and dialogue on dismantling structural racism and addressing the inequities that divide us.