Diversity and Equality of Opportunity

View New Position Statement - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academic Nursing
Posted on March 20, 2017

Position Statement: The national voice for baccalaureate and higher degree nursing education programs, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) serves the public by assisting deans and directors to improve and advance nursing education, research, and practice. As part of that mission, AACN must address diversity and equal opportunity.

AACN recognizes that the population of the United States is rapidly becoming more diverse and will become more so into the 21st century. Because of this trend, diversity and inclusion have emerged as central issues for organizations and institutions. AACN believes that leadership in nursing can best respond to these issues by finding ways to accelerate the inclusion of groups, cultures, and ideas that traditionally have been underrepresented in higher education. Moreover, health care providers and the nursing profession should reflect and value the diversity of the populations and communities they serve.

The objective for schools of nursing is the creation of both an educational community and a professional practice environment that incorporate the diverse perspectives of the many constituencies whom they serve. Nursing programs must provide a supportive learning environment and curriculum in which students, staff, and faculty from all walks of life and from the entire spectrum of society are full participants in the educational process. AACN's commitment to equality of opportunity and diversity is not based solely on the realities of a changing society. As a voice for educators in baccalaureate and higher-degree nursing programs, AACN believes that diversity and equality of opportunity are core values of all educational systems.

Diversity includes consideration of socioeconomic class, gender, age, religious belief, sexual orientation, and physical disabilities, as well as race and ethnicity. Diversity and equality of opportunity recognize that individuals learn from exposure to and interaction with others who have backgrounds and characteristics different from their own. Recognizing and valuing diversity and equal opportunity also means knowledgment, appreciation, and support of different learning styles, ways of interaction, and stimulating forms of discourse derived from interaction and collaboration with persons from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Promoting diversity facilitates equality of opportunity. In operationalizing diversity and equality of opportunity, AACN and the nursing profession must reexamine how educators assess qualifications and measure merit. As preparation for a holistic profession, the measure of excellence in nursing education and preparedness for practice must extend beyond quantitative data such as standardized test scores and grades. It should also assess the leadership, strengths, communication skills, different competencies, and prior experiences of individuals, as well as their capacities for future development.

Increasing diversity implies expanding the traditional pool of qualified applicants for the academic experience and employment by appropriately defining variables reflecting the value and worth of the human experience. It should require an admissions and employment process that fully encompasses the principles of equal opportunity. Qualified applicants should represent the cultural, racial, ethnic, economic, gender, and social diversity of the broader population. The goal is to create a community of culturally competent scholars, including faculty, students, staff, and practitioners, with the appreciation of a world view of interconnectivity and community.

The responsibility of AACN is to use diversity as a strategy to facilitate the education of future professionals by infusing mutual respect and trust into the learning experience. The challenge to AACN is to prepare for the 21st century by establishing a community of learning that recognizes the richness of diversity. As we embark upon this challenge, we must be guided by wisdom, compassion, and understanding.

Approved by AACN Membership - October 27, 1997