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The Invisible Labor Of Black Nurses

The Invisible Labor Of Black Nurses

May is National Nurses Month. A month to celebrate the great achievements of amazing caregivers. We look back so that we can look forward. And as we recognize their contributions, we reflect on the additional labor black nurses do to sustain the health of our communities.

Eager to encourage greater equality for African Americans and women, Mary Eliza Mahoney pursued a nursing career, becoming the first African American licensed nurse in 1879.

Fast forward to today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 338,000 black or African American registered nurses in the United States in 2020. And that representation is increasing. From 2008 to 2018, the number of black registered nurses increased by about 33%. 

To put this percentage into perspective, if you look at stats on Minority Nurses, of the total amount of Registered Nurses in the US, about 9.9% of RNs are black or African American (non-Hispanic); 8.3% are Asian; 4.8% are Hispanic or Latino; 1.3% categorize themselves as two or more race; 0.4% are American Indian or Alaskan Native.

And although roughly over 70% of all registered nurses in the US are white, only 13 percent of white nurses have related master's and doctoral degrees, compared to over 14 percent of African American nurses.

And these numbers do not reflect the additional amount of Licensed Practical Nurses, Pediatric Nurses, and other Vocational Nurse practitioners.

The numbers are clear, the personal investment and educational commitment that black nurses are making in the field of nursing in the US is significant. And their invisible labor in their nursing careers are staggering. Here are just a few added roles that black nurses play in the field of nursing.

Addressing Healthcare Disparities

Black nurses play a crucial role in addressing healthcare disparities. They bring cultural competence and a unique perspective to patient care, helping to improve health outcomes in underserved communities.

Health Equity Advocates

Black nurses often serve as advocates for health equity, working to address racial disparities and inequalities in healthcare. They strive to improve access to quality care and eliminate systemic barriers that disproportionately affect marginalized communities.

Leadership and Mentorship

Black nurses hold leadership positions in various healthcare settings and organizations. They serve as mentors and role models, inspiring the next generation of nurses and encouraging diversity in the nursing workforce.

Community Engagement

Many black nurses actively engage with their communities, participating in outreach programs, health fairs, and educational initiatives. They work to raise awareness about health issues and empower individuals to take charge of their well-being.

Research and Policy

Black nurses contribute to research efforts focused on understanding health disparities and developing effective interventions. Their insights and expertise help shape healthcare policies and practices to better address the unique needs of diverse populations.


Black nurses play a vital role in promoting diversity and representation within the nursing profession. Their presence helps ensure that healthcare settings reflect the communities they serve, fostering trust and understanding among patients.

According to Nomad Health, Over 1/3 of Black patients have reported feeling discriminated against during their medical treatment. When a patient receives care from someone from their own racial or ethnic background they are more likely to utilize preventive care according to the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s Unequal Treatment report. This is why it is imperative that more of America’s healthcare system includes Black nursing professionals.

In a recent interview on the Better Black Health Podcast, Dr. Hall sat down with Tina Richardson, a Pediatric nurse. According to Tina, certain personality traits help a lot when working in the field of nursing. "You must be a people person, and be able to read people. Because you have got to meet outcomes and provide quality care”. She also mentions it is good to focus on both science and math studies in your earlier school years to be able to calculate doses and comprehend pharmacology.

Despite the growing number of black nurses, there is still a need for increased representation. Feeling inspired? To learn more on how to become a nurse in your community go to the National Black Nurses Association

We would love to hear more of your personal health journeys so that we may share them with our growing community.

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