How DEI Training in Health Care Can Improve Patient Outcomes

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Master of Science in Nursing

A nurse greets a patient in a wheelchairWith the growing diversity of patient populations and the persistence of health disparities among different populations, health care providers have become increasingly aware of the need to develop their cultural competency skills through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training.

Research shows that DEI training can positively impact patient outcomes in several ways, including by improving treatment adherence, increasing patient trust and engagement, and reducing health care costs. Additionally, DEI training can help health care teams function more effectively, reducing professional conflict and improving patient experiences.

The significance of DEI for the health care industry is multidimensional, with numerous implications for both patients and health care workers. Exploring these implications and the many topics that DEI training may address is the first step toward understanding its importance in today’s health care landscape.

Diversity in Nursing

As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, the health care workforce needs to reflect this diversity to be able to deliver the highest quality care to all patients. This includes the nursing profession, which comprises the largest group of health care professionals.

Currently, the nursing profession lacks diversity. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), approximately 80% of nurses in the U.S. are white, while Black, Hispanic, and Asian nurses comprise only 19% of the nursing workforce. Men make up only 9% of the nursing workforce.

Racial Disparities and Racism in Nursing

Add This Infographic to Your Site

<p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Racial Disparities and Racism in Nursing" style="max-width:100%;" /></a></p><p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">Regis College Online </a></p>

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) stated in September 2022 that diversifying the nursing workforce was a top priority for achieving health equity and could help expand and improve patient education, satisfaction, and adherence to treatment plans. The AACN also says that increasing nurse diversity has the potential to improve communication between patients and nurses, which could, in turn, improve health outcomes.

One strategy to increase diversity in nursing is to recruit individuals from underrepresented groups. This can be achieved through targeted outreach programs that provide information about nursing careers to students from diverse backgrounds. Scholarships and financial assistance programs can also help to make nursing education more accessible to individuals from underrepresented groups.

Another strategy is to provide resources, support, and mentoring to nurses from diverse backgrounds. This can help to improve retention rates and create opportunities for career advancement. Professional nursing organizations can offer networking opportunities, leadership training, and mentorship programs to nurses from underrepresented groups.

DEI in Nursing Resources

Professional nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA), have recognized the need to increase diversity in nursing and are taking action to address this issue. Organizations like these aim to create opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to enter and advance in the nursing profession — encouraging the hiring and promotion of nursing professionals from diverse backgrounds.

The following are some of the many organizations that are working to diversify the nursing profession.

Additionally, studies show that increasing minority representation in nursing leadership can promote innovation and better patient outcomes. Many nursing mentorship programs are designed to foster the success and retention of nurses from diverse backgrounds, including the following:

  • The NBNA Collaborative Mentorship Program is a mentoring program that pairs experienced nurses with nursing students and early career nurses from underrepresented minority groups. The program aims to provide guidance, support, and networking opportunities to help these nurses develop their professional skills and advance their careers.
  • NAHN: Hispanic Nursing Mentors Connection provides opportunities for mentees to learn from experienced Hispanic nurses, attend professional conferences, and engage in leadership development activities.
  • The Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program provides mentorship and professional development opportunities to help nursing students from underrepresented minority groups achieve their career goals and contribute to the field of nurse anesthesia.

DEI in Health Care

Understanding the basics of DEI is fundamental to understanding both the importance of these diversity efforts and why nursing professionals benefit from DEI training.

Diversity in Health Care

Diversity, in the context of health care, refers to the representation of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, and other variables such as veteran status within both the workforce and the patient population. As the population of the United States continues to diversify, the health care industry needs to prioritize diversity so it can provide effective and culturally sensitive care.

However, simply having a diverse health care workforce is not enough. The health care industry must also work to improve its policies and practices to support patients from diverse backgrounds. This includes providing DEI training to health care providers.

A strong correlation has been shown between DEI training in health care and improvements in care delivery, efficiency, and overall patient outcomes. For example, a National Medical Association meta-analysis of health care DEI efforts found that patient care quality and organization adaptability to change improved in “diversity-friendly” work environments but declined in environments where diversity and DEI trainings were less frequent and perceived as less valuable.

Equity in Health Care

Equity in health care refers to fair and just opportunities for all individuals to access health care and work in the health care industry, regardless of their age, ability, race, gender, or any other factors. Achieving equity in health care requires addressing systemic barriers to health care access and addressing disparities in health outcomes across different demographic groups.

Workplace equity is also crucial for health care organizations. Organizations that hire and promote nurses can advance equity by:

  • Creating transparent pay structures that enable nurses to compare their salary and total compensation information, which promotes equitable pay
  • Adopting clear and transparent promotion tracks so that nurses at all levels can understand the requirements for advancement in their field
  • Fostering a culture of honesty, respect, and support — which includes addressing any nurse bullying or inappropriate workplace conduct

Inclusion in Health Care

Inclusion in health care is the practice of creating a supportive and respectful environment for all professionals and patients. Inclusive policies and practices encourage individuals to feel valued and included, regardless of their background. This includes promoting diversity in leadership and decision-making roles and creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns.

What Is DEI Training?

DEI training broadly refers to any organized effort aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. This training can take many forms, ranging from one-time workshops to long-term, comprehensive training programs.

Following are some examples of general resources for DEI training:

So what is DEI training in the context of health care? Effective DEI training for health care professionals can cover topics such as cultural competency, implicit bias, disability awareness, and LGBTQ+ health care. DEI training can help health care staff and leadership identify and address biases, build stronger relationships across diverse groups, and create a more inclusive workplace culture. It can also help increase awareness and understanding of the experiences of marginalized groups and create more equitable nurse advancement policies and practices.

Despite the many potential benefits of DEI training, in 2021, only 62% of health care professionals worked at organizations with DEI initiatives, according to a Relias national survey of 1,200 health care workers. And of those, just 40% required managers to participate in the training.

DEI Training Topics

Because of the growing diversity of patient populations and the inherently complex nature of medical care, DEI training in health care covers numerous topics. Some common DEI training topics in health care include the following:

  • Social determinants of health (SDOH): Social, political, economic, and environmental factors that can contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and communities
  • Health disparities: Differences in health care access, quality, and outcomes based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and geography
  • Intersectionality: How multiple aspects of a person’s identity, such as their race, gender, and class, interact simultaneously and can affect their health care experiences
  • Implicit bias: Unconscious attitudes and beliefs that health care professionals may hold toward certain groups of people, which can negatively impact their interactions with patients
  • Racial equity: The opportunity for all individuals to access health care and work in the health care industry, regardless of their race
  • Disability inclusion: Providing people with disabilities with the care, accommodations, and evidence-based practices that properly address their needs and challenges
  • LGBTQ+-affirming care: Culturally competent care for members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially for those in vulnerable groups such as transgender individuals, that is based on their unique health needs and health care barriers

DEI Training Resources

DEI training can be a challenging undertaking, but many DEI training materials are available to support nurses and nursing teams looking to conduct their own trainings:

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)

Health Disparities


Implicit Bias

  • Addressing Implicit Bias in Nursing is a continuing education course developed by the American Journal of Nursing.
  • Diversity Science offers an online implicit bias training course for nurses.
  • Implicit Association Test by Project Implicit is the original and most highly regarded test to determine unconscious associations and biases. This test can be taken as a part of a nursing DEI training course and used to springboard conversations about bias in the workplace.

Racial Equity

Disability Inclusion

LGBTQ+ Affirming Care

  • “Cultural Competence in the Care of LGBTQ Patients” explains common barriers that people in the LGBTQ+ community face when trying to navigate U.S. health care systems, and how nurses can display cultural competence in the care of LGBTQ+ patients.
  • “Nursing Advocacy for LGBTQ+ Populations is the most recent position statement by the American Nurses Association on LGBTQ+ discrimination in health care and what nurses must do to support patients of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
  • Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Pride Month resources are ENA-endorsed resources that can connect nurses with information about LGBTQ+ patients and their experiences.
  • The American Trans Resource Hub offers resources about gender-affirming health care providers and organizations. Nurses can add their profiles or organizations to the provider map to signal their support for transgender patients and employees or to connect with other gender-affirming nurse professionals.

What Is Cultural Competency Training?

Cultural competence in health care refers to the ability of health care professionals to understand and appreciate the unique cultural values, beliefs, and practices of their patients.

One example of cultural competence for nurse professionals is understanding the importance of family involvement in patient care for certain cultural groups. For example, in many Hispanic cultures, family involvement in medical decision-making and care is highly valued. Nurses who are culturally competent recognize and respect this preference by engaging with patients’ families and considering their input in the care plan.

Similarly, in some East Asian cultures, patients may be hesitant to question or challenge their health care providers out of respect, so culturally competent nurses proactively encourage open communication and ensure that their patients feel comfortable asking questions or expressing concerns.

In another example of cultural awareness, understanding military culture is important for civilian nurses treating self-stigma among veterans.

When providers are culturally competent, they can communicate more effectively with their patients, understand their health beliefs and behaviors, and tailor treatment plans to meet their specific needs. This, in turn, can lead to improved patient satisfaction, greater adherence to treatment protocols, and, ultimately, better health outcomes.

Cultural competence training in health care creates inclusive and supportive environments for patients as well as for health care workers. When nurses feel supported and valued in their work environment, they are more likely to be motivated to perform their jobs well, leading to increased job satisfaction and retention rates. Nursing teams that promote cultural competence and inclusivity help their colleagues feel comfortable sharing their own experiences, which can create a sense of community and belonging in the workplace.

DEI Training Certification

Several DEI training certification programs are available for nursing students and professionals, as well as health care professionals more broadly. Some examples include:

DEI Goals for Nurses

Add This Infographic to Your Site

<p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="DEI Goals for Nurses" style="max-width:100%;" /></a></p><p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">Regis College Online </a></p>

The Importance of DEI Training in Nursing

When nursing professionals participate in DEI training, it can lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced health disparities, and the creation of supportive work environments.

Through DEI training, nursing professionals can gain the skills and knowledge they need to provide patient-centered care that is respectful of diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs. This type of training can also improve communication between health care providers and patients, which can result in greater trust, satisfaction, and adherence to treatment protocols.

As nurses demand DEI training to address health disparities and promote equity in health care, better health outcomes will become possible for all patients.


Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Health Care Workforce

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Enhancing Diversity in the Workforce

National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing, Racism’s Impact in Nursing