Leadership and Management in Nursing Education
Nursing education profoundly impacts the knowledge and competencies of nurses and all healthcare professionals. For instance, prospective healthcare professionals must update their skills and knowledge of the prevailing demands for quality and convenient care by pursuing nursing courses and participating in educational programs.
According to Fawaz et al. , nurses with bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees can meet various patients’ needs, function as leaders, and advance science that benefits patients and the capacity of health professionals to deliver safe and quality patient care . Amidst the need to provide quality care in a highly-complex healthcare system, nursing education emerges as a profound strategy for enabling nurses to widen their knowledge base, develop a command of skills, and enhance proficiencies that are consistent with the ability to deliver evidence-based, quality care.
Despite the plausibility of improving care quality and efficiency through nursing education, education leaders and managers face multiple challenges perpetrated by the need to develop culturally responsive pedagogy, the urge to maintain high educational standards in a financially-constrained environment, structural discrimination, and the need to address discrepancies between theoretical knowledge and practical competencies.
This paper elaborates on structural discrimination as a challenge for education leaders by presenting a scenario where nursing students face discrimination. Also, it expounds on ideal strategies for preventing future reoccurrence of discrimination and conflicts.
Discrimination as a Challenge to Nursing Education Leaders
Learning institutions should provide equal opportunities for learners to advance their knowledge and competencies. In this sense, nursing schools should have the power to instill more positive racial attitudes. According to Starck et al. , teachers are entrusted with enhancing learners’ awareness of the thresholds for positive racial attitudes.
However, the perception of learning institutions as democratizing avenues faces challenges due to pervasive racial biases embedded in society in the form of implicit perceptions and stereotypes . In this sense, educators entrusted with the responsibility of promoting diversity through providing equal learning opportunities are equally susceptible to firmly-help biases, stereotypes, and prejudices toward people of unique socio-cultural attributes, including race, complexion, and background.
Undoubtedly, the failure to address implicit and explicit biases in schools facilitates the concept of structural discrimination, which disproportionately targets and affects particular sections of learners. In the United States, African American learners are the most vulnerable student population to discriminative behaviors and acts by educators.
Discrimination in nursing education can manifest through various means, including providing unequal opportunities when enrolling new students in learning programs, making discriminative slurs towards learners, and disproportionately enacting regulations that promote racism.
According to Iheduru-Anderson et al. , racism in American schools has a deep history that traces its roots to the presence of discriminatory policies in the second half of the 20th Century. In this sense, nursing schools in the Southern US did not accept non-white nursing students, while those in the Northern US sparingly accepted non-white learners. In North Dakota, schools segregated native American Nurses until 1974.
Although the culture of discriminating against non-white nursing students significantly diminished in the subsequent years, it is essential to note that the firmly-held stereotypes and prejudices toward these sections of learners persist.
Iheduru-Anderson et al.  assert that the country has achieved tremendous progress in addressing racial disparities and inequalities when enrolling new nurse students in educational programs. However, the subsequent graduation rates are low for non-white nursing learners due to the unreported encounters with discriminative school policies, racist behaviors by educators, and bullying by peers. In turn, these reasons explain the persistent aspects of disproportionate and non-homogeneous academic performance in highly-diverse school environments.
Amidst the need to provide equal learning opportunities to nursing students regardless of their socio-economic statuses and backgrounds, nursing education leaders are responsible for addressing structural discrimination by collaborating with other stakeholders, including curriculum developers, lawmakers, and teachers, to develop a culturally responsive pedagogy and establish consensus measures to address uncivil behaviors in learning environments.
Samuels  contends that teachers should embrace differentiated instruction, enhance their cultural competency, and establish class expectations that encourage equal participation for all learners. Undoubtedly, the success of these interventions relies massively upon leadership commitment and the prevailing management style.
Critical Analysis of a Scenario that Occurred in an Academic Setting
One scenario that revealed the underlying problem of discrimination in nursing education involved a teacher-learner conflict, where the lecturer made a discriminative slur towards the learners based on her last semester’s performance. The lecturer jokingly indicated that the learner’s race and her consistent involvement in religious activities were the major reasons for her unconvincing academic performance.
In the same breath, he threatened to consistently award low marks to the student if she continues participating actively in religious matters. On her side, the learner indicated her unwavering determination to perform better in classwork since she perceived her religious and racial attributes as the primary sources of motivation.
The contradicting worldviews between the lecturer and the learner resulted in a conflict that prompted interventions by the department leader. In essence, the student endured multiple consequences of structural discrimination, including consistent vulnerability to discriminative jokes, exclusion from interactive class activities such as tutorials, and the subsequent stress emanating from the perception of unfairness and bullying.
At some point, she contemplated dropping out of the learning program by some of her friends advised her to forward the matter to the head of the department. Upon reporting the matter to the head of the department, it became vivid that the lecturer upheld implicit biases towards African American learners and had compromised the tenets of culturally responsive pedagogy.
Fortunately, the head of the department solved the issues by allowing each of the conflicting parties to communicate their perspectives and concerns to realize a consensus decision. The lecturer apologized and assured the head of the department about his determination to improve his cultural competence and address implicit biases that anchor discrimination. On the other hand, the learner willingly accepted the apology and focused on improving her performance.
Factors that Contributed to the Issue
Based on the case scenario, it is essential to note that upholding implicit biases towards learners with specific demographic or socio-cultural attributes can lead to multiple consequences, including the perceptions of unequal learning opportunities, stress, and poor academic performance.
Also, discrimination emanating from racial stereotypes and prejudices can affect the meaningful relationship between nursing educators and learners. McGinnis  argues that student-teacher relationships facilitate involvement between teachers and learners, where positive relationships resonate with improved academic performance.
In the same breath, hostile and unfriendly student-teacher relationships result in the low achievement of learning outcomes, poor school attendance and preferences, poor work habits, and an increased likelihood of behavioral problems . In the case study, it is vivid that the lecturer was unaware of the tenets for practicing culturally responsive pedagogy. Undoubtedly, this consideration led to a student-teacher conflict that prompted interventions by the head of the department.
Leadership/Management Skills Demonstrated When Resolving the Issue
Notably, the head of the department demonstrated various aspects of appropriate leadership and management skills when resolving the issue. Firstly, he demonstrated the tenets of emotional intelligence, which is a profound aspect of conflict resolution.
According to Valente and Lourenço , emotional intelligence involves the capacity to correctly perceive, evaluate, and express emotions, generate feelings facilitate thinking. Also, it entails understanding other people’s emotions and regulating individual emotions to promote intellectual awareness .
Finally, the tenets of emotional intelligence (EI) require leaders to thoroughly analyze the causes of conflicts by eliminating individual perceptions and emotions that compromise decisions. The leader denominated this skill by allowing both parties to communicate their perspectives and concerns, alongside avoiding personal biases and emotions that would compromise the impartiality of the resolution practices.
Secondly, the leader demonstrated awareness of various strategies for solving conflicts. In this sense, he applied two approaches to resolving the issue; compromising and collaborating-integrating approaches. According to Chandolia and Anastasiou , compromising in the context of a conflict entails finding a solution that is mutually acceptable, expedient, and partially satisfies both involved parties.
On the other hand, the collaborating-integrating approach involves working with other individuals in searching for solutions that fully address the issue at hand, satisfying all involved parties . Instead of punishing the lecturer, the head of the department cultivated an avenue for apology and forgiveness with an assurance of abandoning uncivil behaviors such as discrimination.
Although this conflict resolution did not encourage ruthless punishment such as suspension for the lecturer, it was ideal for facilitating consensus and improving the relationship between the lecturer and the students. As a result, the leader demonstrated the ability to cultivate a culture of meaningful interpersonal relationships between teachers and learners, enhancing the possibility of improved academic performance and the elimination of implicit biases that anchor discrimination.
The Role of Academic Education Leader in Resolving the Issue
Education leaders are responsible for understanding issues that affect learning processes and factors that undermine the thriving of culturally responsive pedagogy. In this sense, resolving issues such as student-teacher conflicts and concerns of structural discrimination emerges as a profound responsibility for the educational leadership and management helm.
According to Valente et al. , schools are the microcosms of society that bring together people with different worldviews, ways of being, thinking, and living. The plausibility of bringing together highly-diverse people can facilitate conflicts that manifest through the expression of implicit and explicit biases, stereotypes, and unethical perceptions toward people of specific socio-economic and demographic aspects. As a result, conflicts are common phenomena in the learning environment due to the presence of a non-homogeneous population of learners and educators .
Education leaders should exhibit appropriate leadership skills and competencies consistent with the determination to resolve issues in nursing schools. For example, they must apply tenets of emotional intelligence, including emotional regulation, social awareness, and self-awareness, when managing conflicts.
Secondly, they are responsible for cultivating a cultural sensitivity learning environment by training staff and educating them on cultural competence. Finally, education leaders are in a forefront position to understand situations and determine when to apply different conflict resolution mechanisms depending on the contextual issues.
According to Valente et al. , it is essential to incorporate problem-solving strategies, critical thinking, effective communication approaches, consensus decision-Making capabilities, and openness when solving conflicts that occur in learning settings. Consequently, education leaders should exhibit these skills to resolve issues such as conflicts effectively.
Strategic Interventions to Prevent Future Reoccurrence of Similar Situations
Undeniably, discriminative behaviors toward learners of specific socioeconomic or demographic orientation results in multiple ramifications, including student-teacher conflicts, poor academic performance, stress, and absenteeism.
Also, the feelings of discrimination may cause a lack of interest and motivation to learn and reduce self-confidence in nursing students . Therefore, it is essential to prevent future occurrence of discrimination and associated activities by implementing the following strategic interventions:
Developing a culturally responsive learning environment
Cultivating a culturally responsive learning environment is an essential strategy for addressing discrimination in learning environments. According to Samuels , a culturally responsive pedagogy entails understanding how learners become socio-culturally conscious, affirming views about diversity, facilitating the implementation of diverse instructional strategies, and advocating for all students.
Amidst the need to provide equal learning opportunities to nursing students, a culturally responsive pedagogy emerges as a profound approach for addressing the underlying sources of learning disparities and inequalities. Samuels  states the possibility of creating a culturally sensitive learning environment through providing opportunities for all learners, team building, and conditioning ethical behaviors by affirming positive views about diversity.
Emphasizing cultural competence training
Nursing educators should upgrade and enhance their cultural competence to enable them to adhere to tenets of culturally responsive pedagogy. According to Smith , cultural competence is a profound skill for nurses, nurse educators, and administrators of the nursing education programs because it allows them to be culturally aware and facilitates civil behaviors in learning institutions.
When educators update their cultural competencies, they can thrive in highly-diverse educational environments, provide impartial support to learners, and intercept all forms of student disruptions . As an educational leader, I would enhance educators’ cultural competence by involving them in training and educational programs that focus on the tenets of cultural awareness and responsiveness.
Developing policies that address uncivil behaviors and acts
Finally, I would collaborate with other stakeholders such as educators, administrators, students, and parents to develop comprehensive policies prohibiting uncivil behaviors in the learning environment. Notably, these policies would focus on preventative interventions such as punishing persistent uncivil behaviors, rewarding civil behaviors, and incorporating the concept of cultural sensitivity in all learning activities. Also, these policies would provide guidelines for conflict prevention at the classroom level and organizational-level strategies for conflict resolution.
Although nursing education programs equip prospective nurses with the necessary skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary for providing quality and patient-centered care, nursing education leaders face various challenges. Prevalent discriminative behaviors and acts in learning institutions are among the profound challenges facing nursing education leaders.
For instance, learners with specific demographic and socio-economic attributes are susceptible to harassment, bullying, and discrimination by teachers and other learners. These issues result in stress, affect academic performance, and facilitate the likelihood of dropping out of school. As a result, this paper elaborates on various strategies to prevent the reoccurrence and persistence of discriminative behaviors and structural racism in learning environments, alongside leadership strategies for resolving conflicts.
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