The Power of WE

The Power of WE

An Homage to Black Professionals in Health Care—Black Representation Matters

“Paging Dr. Cheryl Burrus room 1, Dr. Nneka Davis room 2, Dr. Cheryl Johnson-Bracey, Charge Anesthesiologist, to the OR please.”

In my fourth semester pediatric clinical rotation, I shadowed the Operating Room (OR) at Howard County General Hospital. It was uncommon, but so refreshing to see three African American (black) female practitioners at the top of the totem pole as opposed to the bottom (so often the “norm” expected in health care). They looked like me, talked like me, shared similar life experiences… I felt empowered. I felt the… Black Girl Magic.

There is power in WE. There is power in Black representation.

I attended—and rightfully earned my place in—predominately white, prestigious institutions, but often felt out of place. My voice silenced behind systemic racism, implicit biases, and microaggressions I felt compelled to work twice as hard to prove that I, too was brilliant. So often I was the only black student in my class. The professors, teaching assistants, and research assistants were Indian, Chinese, or Caucasian, never Black like me. I had no role models in school, and as a result the aforementioned positions seemed unattainable.

It was not until I began my journey at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing that I could see myself earning my Doctor of Nursing Practice. In addition to the black female practitioners I encountered during my clinical rotation, I have role models among my faculty. Associate Dean Phyllis Sharps, Dr. Diana Baptiste, Dr. Tamar Rodney, and Associate Dean Gloria Ramsey, to name a few. These black women not only practice, teach, conduct research, and mentor, but work at the forefront of our community to provide health care in underserved populations. They represent black excellence, and propel myself and other black nursing students to greatness.

I once struggled to find a place, but thanks to the Hopkins nurses who have traveled before me, I have opportunities to lead. We black student nurses stand on the shoulders of giants such as nurse pioneer Gertrude T. Hodges (the first African American graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Class of 1959). It is because of her relentless determination and undying commitment to serve that we have a lamp to illuminate our experience.

So how is diversity in nursing improving care?

Let’s take a look at Dr. Rebecca Wright’s research study, “A Nurse-Led Approach to improving Palliative Care in the ICU and ED for Black Populations.” Three of Dr. Wright’s six student research assistants (including myself) are African American. It’s important because trust is established when caregivers have the same ethnic background as the population served. For example, the Harvard Business Review found that black men who met with black doctors elected to receive more preventative services than black men who met with nonblack doctors.

Representations Matters.

Yes, there is still more work to do to diversify health care; however, at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing we are privileged to have nurse leaders who are committed in taking on that arduous feat.

When we have opportunity, we must remember to pull others up into unrepresented and under-represented spaces as we climb the ladder.

As I continue to climb, I am committed to reaching back.

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Nia Adimu-Ceja Josiah is currently a student in the MSN (Entry into Nursing) program, as well as a member of the Black Student Nurses Association, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee, and the Social Justice Action Team. Nia is a Palliative Care Research Assistant on the Hillman Research Study ICU team led by Dr. Rebecca Wright. She plans to further her education by earning a DNP (Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner). Her interests include mental and behavioral health in underserved populations.


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