Am I Invisible?

“I have lived in this country for over eleven years and I’ve always felt invisible. Since the first time I came to this college it’s like I am not even in the classroom. I don’t think my teachers even realize they are doing this.”    
                                An Ethiopian Nursing Student

The faculty was silent. The students were silent. The hush in the room was penetrating. It took courage for her to speak up in front of her instructors and peers. Her comment had more impact that any of us expected.

I was asked to present a seminar for health occupation faculty. The purpose of the presentation, entitled Diversity & Healthcare: Translating it into Practice, was to provide faculty with the information and the tools to ensure that nursing students graduate with the knowledge and skills to provide culturally competent healthcare. To my delight and surprise, the attendees included second year nursing students. The Ethiopian nursing student was the voice we all needed to hear.

In a study done by Janelle Gardner PhD (2005) she discussed the need for change in nursing education programs. She found that many times minority students felt their opinion was not valued by faculty. Listed below are other perceived barriers by minority students.

  • Loneliness
  • Differentness
  • Absence of acknowledgement of individuality
  • Peer’s lack of understanding & knowledge about cultural differences
  • Desiring support from teachers
  • Coping with insensitivity and discrimination
  • Overcoming obstacles

As our student demographics change, we as educators must acknowledge barriers exist, embrace cultural ways of being and learning, promote inclusion and create a welcoming environment in which we all learn and grow.

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