Inclusion underscores need to show individual contributions are important
Nurse diversity and inclusion are inseparable
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Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN
, is the former senior vice president and chief nurse executive at OnCourse Learning. Williamson continues to write for and serve in an advisory role.
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By Eileen P. Williamson
Diversity in nursing - Eileen Williamson, nurse leader
Inclusion has become a valuable addition to healthcare diversity because people want not only to be hired, but included. From a very early age, don’t children want to be included in activities and on teams with their classmates, friends and families? This doesn’t change in adulthood. Later in their work lives they want to be included in their organizations as well. When employees from diverse groups join a work team, they want its members to know they have something to bring to the table. If their contributions are not valued, they may conclude they were hired for the wrong reasons, and sadly, the organization may lose them. I view diversity as valuable, and the work organizations have been doing on inclusion also is valuable. Inclusion celebrates each person’s uniqueness and value. It’s not something we give to or do for individuals of diverse groups; it’s what we do to push the nursing profession forward and improve patient care. Inclusion means we want to make them part of us because we will be better off when they are. Inclusion is not just needed in hiring or in working with new staff. Its concepts need to be extended to patients, visitors, healthcare colleagues and others. Inclusion should be viewed as a celebration of each person’s uniqueness and value and an invitation for them to share their unique gifts with us.
Diversity and inclusion are words heard frequently in healthcare. They must be woven into the very fabric of healthcare organizations striving to build diverse workforces to meet the needs of the diverse populations they serve. They must be part of hiring practices, employee orientations, patient care, strategic planning and more.
Most often thought of in terms of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability or age, diversity also includes cultural practices, socioeconomic status, educational background, generational differences and more.

Organizations have embraced diversity and made it part of their mission and vision statements and core values, not because of laws or mandates, but because it the right thing to do for staff, patients and the community. We’ve grown in many ways when it comes to diversity, but still need more emphasis on
cultural diversity and diversity in leadership
. Inclusion is an important and somewhat newer aspect of diversity. Simply put, inclusion is not just being present, but being part of things. Now seen as a much-needed addition to healthcare’s work on diversity, inclusion underscores that when we hire someone from a diverse group we do so because we want what he or she offers, not because we have a certain employee mix to meet. When we include someone, we’re saying we value that person and his or her contributions.
The importance of inclusion in diversity
Diversity has been proven to work well in strong, healthy workplace environments, but it can thrive when inclusion is part of it. Healthcare organizations have found diversity and inclusion work together well.
Johnson & Johnson
believes diversity is "all backgrounds, beliefs and the entire range of human experience — coming together" and inclusion is "about a culture where you are valued," and I agree. Our professional organizations promote both. For instance, the
National League for Nursing
believes quality healthcare and diversity are "inseparable.” And according to its living document on diversity and meaningful inclusion, the organization is "committed to educating nurses who value the differences in others and inclusion of them to help advance the health of the nation and the global community.” We’ve come a long way, but our work is not done. Over time, we’ve seen organizational change coming from diversity and inclusion. We’ve moved from working on numbers and mixes to recognizing the value of the people behind them. And this is a key point.

It’s not enough to focus on what organizations can do for diverse employees; organizations must understand and appreciate what diverse employees can do for them. Making diversity and inclusion priorities has created new opportunities for professionals from diverse groups; it has increased access to care for diverse populations; it has improved care quality for many patients and it is changing the face of our healthcare system.
Perfect together
“… inclusion underscores that when we hire someone from a diverse group we do so because we want what he or she offers, not because we have a certain employee mix to meet.”
— Eileen Williamson, RN
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