As a professional registered nurse, I am certain that I am in a very good position to do my part in addressing the disparities in mental health care simply by adhering to the code of ethics for nurses. One of the underlying principles of this code is the recognition of the universality of the need for health care. I take this principle to mean that registered nurses should not only understand the people’s need for proper health care but that they should do their utmost to ensure that they get it.
Provision 1 of the code explicitly states that “The nurse, in all professional relationships, practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems” (The American Nurses Association, Inc. , 2005). As a registered nurse, therefore, I am commanded by this provision to treat every patient equally regardless of skin color, religion, gender, economic status, and nationality.
In other words, what white Americans get in terms of attention, African-Americans should also be able to receive. Similarly, the quality of care available to moneyed patients should likewise be granted to the poor. This argument is premised on the fact that since every human being has exactly the same needs, denying proper healthcare to some is outright immoral. I would therefore do everything in my power to see to it that my patients receive exactly the same amount of time, care, and understanding regardless of their origin and present circumstances in life.
This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he emphatically said that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane” (Carpenter, 2007). I agree with him with all my heart. When a child from a minority group, for instance, does not get the same amount of education that white children get, he or she grows up to be less educated. Not being properly educated, the opportunities available for this minority child would be less than those available for the better educated white children.
In other words, he or she would not be able to compete for high paying jobs. The worst that could happen to this minority child, however, would be for him or her to later live a less comfortable life – a life with less material comfort. According to Martin Luther King, Jr. , this is an inhuman situation. However, he stressed that denying this same minority child with equal access to proper health care would be more inhuman. This is because when somebody is denied access to adequate health care, the end result could be untimely death.
The person, therefore, is denied to live his or her life. In other words, there would be no difficult life for him or her because there would be no life at all. The situation becomes even more unthinkable when a person is deprived of adequate mental health care because he or she is black, Latino, or poor. It is very likely that when adequate mental health care is denied, the person in question might go on living a sub-human existence. I have seen unattended mental patients who do not take a bath for days or even weeks.
Some of them, not knowing how or where to go in order to relieve themselves, do it where they sleep. Of course, this is not how human beings live. This is the way of lower forms of animals. This would never happen during my watch. As a registered nurse, I will tend to my mental patients equally regardless of skin color or economic status because I am fully aware that all men have been created equal and should, therefore, be treated equally.
Racism, conscious or unconscious, has no place in our profession. I would also make use of all types of persuasive arguments so that I could convince my superiors to rid the institution where I work of any institutional racist practices and policies, citing the inherent and constitutional rights of every American to adequate mental health care. Towards this end, I would exert every effort to win my co-workers to my cause in order to present a stronger case to our management people.