There are many factors that influence the path nurses take not only as professionals, but also as individuals, in pursuit of a way to make a difference in the things they believe in. As a nurse researcher, educator, and leader of the recent National League for Nursing
(NLN) "Diversity & Inclusion: Facilitating Race-Related Discourse that Matters
" workshop, Kenya V. Beard, EdD, AGACNP-BC, NP-C, CNE, ANEF, FAAN, demonstrates the many reasons why nurses should work to influence and inspire change in policy and practice.
An appreciation of collaborative research, a vision for creating more inclusive environments by addressing bias, and the desire to develop the leadership abilities of culturally diverse nurses are what drove Dr. Beard to provide workshops for the NLN that empower participants to create an academic setting that allows for positive change and disrupts race-related stereotypes.
“Nurses, through collaboration, have the power to transform institutional settings and create spaces where diversity and inclusion policies can succeed,” Dr. Beard told Notes for the Nursing Community. “I believe that as we recognize and control factors that limit us from operationalizing our professional values, we will not only benefit the nursing community but the entire healthcare community and society.”
Serving as a community health nurse helped Dr. Beard confirm her interest in teaching, something that would allow her to pursue her passion for sharing knowledge and learning from others. Among her many roles and accolades, Dr. Beard currently serves as an associate professor at the City of New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies
in New York, N.Y., is an American Academy of Nursing
(AAN) Fellow, and has disseminated research and best practices that have impacted diversity, inclusion, and health equity.
Dr. Beard’s journey in addressing health disparities and her drive to do something with a broad impact was fueled in part by her father’s death and greatly influenced by existing literature on racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. This, alongside her collaboration with and guidance from influential nurse policy leaders, inspired and allowed her to co-produce radio segments, write blogs, record podcasts, and interview, learn from, and partner with other individuals who are working to eliminate healthcare disparities.
“I believe that my work has inspired other culturally diverse nurses to partner with others and do more to improve the healthcare delivery system,” Dr. Beard said. “Nurses should partner with individuals and organizations that have similar interests and continuously seek to strengthen the delivery of healthcare.”
Influencing policy changes and inspiring others to believe change can be achieved has become a driving factor in Dr. Beard’s philosophy and work. Through her study of research focused on the importance of workforce diversity and her work in training healthcare providers who better understand all areas of the population, Dr. Beard has grown to believe that the issue in implementation stems from policies falling on unreceptive hosts, potentially resulting in missed opportunities to achieve significant advancements.
“Our experiences shape the lens through which we interpret events and create our reality,” Dr. Beard said. “Hence, diversity may also generate differences in perspectives that could impede, rather than promote, excellence. To advance diversity, inclusion, and health equity, I try to examine health policies by looking for factors that support and limit policy targets, determining whom the policy helps and potentially harms, and assessing what the policy means to different individuals.”
An advocate for addressing disparities within institutions and policies, Dr. Beard places emphasis on the strategic implementation of plans that intentionally address diversity and inclusion, ensure that actions support diversity, and measure the extent to which values and actions are aligned. With this in mind, she stresses the importance of nurses speaking up in response to policies that do not promote inclusion as they pave the way for change both in the nursing community, as well as healthcare systems at large.
“Institutions are more likely to be victorious when individuals demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence, seek to understand the reality of others, and create an ethos where difference is respected,” Dr. Beard said. “It takes a village. Collectively, we can create environments where we learn from our past and continuously move in the right direction. As my colleagues at Virginia Mason Medical Center say, ‘Better never stops.’”
To learn more about the “Diversity & Inclusion: Facilitating Race-Related Discourse that Matters” workshop, visit the NLN website here