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Celebrating Juneteenth: Freedom Day

Just this week, the US Senate unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. This is the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law.

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. The National Archives News wrote: "On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s historic Emancipation Proclamation, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free."

Of the General Order No. 3, the National Archives News goes on to say:

"While the order was critical to expanding freedom to enslaved people, the racist language used in the last sentences foreshadowed that the fight for equal rights would continue."

In 2020, honored Juneteenth by celebrating advancements made in the Black community, specifically highlighting four exceptional Black nurses in this article who have achieved so much despite racial disparities and challenges faced throughout their careers.

These nurses gave advice for what healthcare workers can do about social injustice and how white and non-black nurses can support the Black community.

Alice Benjamin, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, FNP, said that nurse advocates need to:

"Understand the social determinants of health that contribute to health disparities. Understand how your implicit bias and white privilege impact your physical assessment, clinical judgment, and the patient's plan of care."

Both Michael Kearse, BSN, RN, CCRN, and Shauna Chin, CCRN, stated how important it is for non-Black nurses to advocate for their Black patients as if they were their own family or loved ones.

When talking about her experiences with racism in nursing and everyday life, Benjamin said, "It's a deep pain to have to continuously be professional, pleasant, and do what's right despite the several racial slurs, insults, and injustices over the years."

As we celebrate Juneteenth and all the progress made since 1865, there is still much work to be done. Nurses and nurse educators play important roles in working towards equity in healthcare and nursing education. As the 2030 Future of Nursing Report proposes, we can transform nursing education by:

  • Cultivating inclusive learning environments that acknowledge and challenge racism in all aspects of nursing education and practice.

  • Intentionally recruiting, supporting, and mentoring faculty and students from diverse backgrounds to ensure that the next generation of nurses reflects the communities they serve.

Efforts to address racism and inequities must happen on all levels, as Drexel University's Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing, Dr. Ebony E. White wrote last year:

"We must recognize this work is necessary at all levels, from the boardroom to the patient’s room."

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