Black Travel Nurses

How to Handle Patient Biases Gracefully as a Black Nurse

How to Handle Patient Biases Gracefully as a Black Nurse

As a Black nurse, you devote your career to compassionately caring for all patients using your expertise to foster healing. But you may also encounter racist patient comments or requests for different caregivers based on bias against your race. 

Remaining unshaken through these painful experiences requires grace and courage. With poise and empathy, you uplift humanity and shift perceptions for the better.

Here’s how to handle patient biases gracefully when you’re working as a Black nurse

Recognizing Underlying Biases

A patient’s biases emerge through racial microaggressions disguised as compliments, or explicit prejudice:

  • Complimenting you as “well-spoken” or “articulate” implies surprise based on race.
  • Assuming you are a janitor or aide rather than an experienced primary nurse.
  • Scrutinizing your credentials and clinical decisions more intensely than your peers.
  • Requesting care from a white nurse because they feel more “comfortable.”
  • Making overtly racist remarks about your appearance or background.

See them not as personal attacks, but as products of systemic prejudice requiring compassion to overcome.

Redirect Tensions Professionally

When prejudice arises, redirect the situation with grace:

  • Politely reintroduce yourself as the nurse overseeing their care, outlining your qualifications.
  • If your competency is questioned, calmly walk through your clinical reasoning to provide reassurance.
  • If patients request another provider, assure them you strive to offer the highest quality treatment to all patients equally.
  • If insensitive comments occur, gently note the hospital embraces a diverse community of patients and staff.

Redirecting with quiet confidence underscores your consummate professionalism. Kill ignorance with kindness.

Seek Leadership’s Aid Respectfully

If tensions escalate, discreetly involve leadership while remaining patient-focused:

  • Explain you will get the charge nurse to discuss concerns while you continue providing medical care.
  • Recap the inappropriate remarks made away from the patient to avoid retaliation or further conflict.
  • Refrain from social media commentary that could be unprofessional if seen by the prejudiced patient or hospital.

Appropriate leadership intervention often resolves issues while allowing you to stand taller through trying moments.

Reaffirm Your Worth

To avoid internalizing hateful words, remind yourself:

  • A patient’s racism reflects only their limitations, not their capabilities.
  • You are worthy, valued, and seen for the incredible nurse you are by the vast majority.
  • Share painful encounters with mentors who can remind you of your purpose when self-doubt surfaces.

You know your worth deep down. Don’t let ignorance shake your foundation.

Rise Through Excellence

While the situation was unjust, remain focused on exemplary care:

  • Perform your role with the grace and expertise you are revered for.
  • Kill microaggressions with kindness. Seek eye contact and engage patients warmly.
  • Thank prejudiced patients who eventually recognize your skill, allowing them to evolve.

Excellence paired with dignity often speaks louder than words, planting seeds of growth.

Years from now, it will be a story of when you met hatred with empathy and professionalism. Keep standing strong in who you are.

It’s unfortunate that in this day and age, patient biases rooted in systemic racism still persist within healthcare. 

So prepare yourself and just know that as a Black nurse, you may unfortunately encounter discriminatory comments, assumptions, or requests for a different caregiver. 

While these hurtful experiences may initially startle you or perhaps even shake your confidence, responding with poise and patience shifts perceptions and preserves your dignity.


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1 thought on “How to Handle Patient Biases Gracefully as a Black Nurse”

  1. Pingback: How to Get Your Employer to Create Safe Spaces for Black Nurses

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