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How Nurses Come to Race


The current ANS featured article is titled “How Nurses Come to Race: Racialization in Public Health Breastfeeding Promotion” by Alysha McFadden, MSc, BSN, RN, CCHN(c); Susan L. Erikson, PhD. In thiis important article, the authors uncover ways in which nurses engage with racialized institutional practices, even when trying not to do so.  We invite you to download this article while it is featured and welcome your comments below.  Here is a message from Alysha McFadden, and a brief video she prepared about this work!

While people are gathering on their balconies at 7 pm every night to rightfully cheer on essential workers such as nurses, I questioned whether it was the right time to feature our research that critically examines nursing praxis. Yet, my newsfeed reminded me that no matter the circumstances, it is appropriate to draw attention to racializing, othering, and essentializing practices—even when its committers are our current day heroes.

“How nurses come to race” was based on my master’s research. As a second-year doctoral student, time has lapsed, and I am continuing to learn (and unlearn) how to conduct myself and my research in an anti-racist and decolonial way. For this blog post I decided to share a personal story of my decolonizing journey through visual storytelling. The video briefly describes what inspired my research on racialization and breastfeeding, while drawing attention to my privilege and complicity.

I hope that when you read our featured article, you will see that racializing, othering, and essentializing practices are ‘…not just occurring in rare situations by “racist” nurses.’ While our ethnographic account and its conclusions cannot be applied with broad brush strokes over every nursing practice area and setting, I hope our article will facilitate reflection—and then transformative action—when these insights resonate. Racialization, othering, and essentialization are pervasive, complex, and often structurally-arranged—but they are not inescapable.

This year, 2020, is the year of the nurse and midwife. Our profession is under considerable pressure and scrutiny. Let us ensure that nurses provide the best, equity-oriented care so that we can be a beacon of light in these uncertain times.

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