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Caring for Vulnerable Immigrant Populations

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How Nurses Can Care for Immigrants in Need

Immigration continues to be a hot-button issue across America and most of the world. Violence and corruption force families and individuals to flee their homes and move to a neighboring country. Assault, abuse, dehydration, sun stroke, and starvation are among the threats encountered on the journey. When they arrive at a border, they are in dire need of emotional and physical care. The immigrant population’s hardship and vulnerability present tremendous challenges for the nurses and healthcare providers caring for them. 

Standing Up to Racism and Patient Bias

Fear of undocumented immigrants has been spread throughout the U.S. and many Western nations. The rise of racist and bigoted rhetoric has created uneasiness deep within healthcare systems. The reality is that some nurses and clinicians may not view these individuals as legitimate patients, and the quality of care they receive may suffer as a result. This disparity in care will strain patient-nurse and patient-provider relationships and can not be tolerated. 

If a nurse hears their peers or patients using offensive or abusive language, the right choice is to speak up and stop the words and sentiment from continuing. That said, some may be hesitant to stand up to their peers in these kinds of situations. They may fear being reprimanded or punished for embarrassing peers or challenging a supervisor’s authority. If a nurse feels uncomfortable speaking up in the moment, they can report the abuse to another supervisor or file a complaint with the board of nursing. 

Battling Unconscious Bias

Even if a nurse is not using hateful or racist language, they may still carry unconscious bias into the workplace. It leads them to overlook some of the patient’s needs or unnecessarily expedite important processes when delivering care. Racism and bigotry surface in both obvious and subtle forms; as nurses and managers are closest in proximity to the point of care with patients, they must be vigilant and unwavering in addressing this behavior in the healthcare setting.

Establishing a Code of Ethics

As nursing staffs prepare to care for immigrant groups, everyone must be on the same page. A nurse’s commitment to the Nursing Code of Ethics, as laid out by the American Nursing Association, is paramount. The code of ethics promotes professional nursing with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every individual. It sternly implores nurses to set aside their personal and political beliefs when delivering care.


Nurse managers play a key role in identifying inappropriate behavior and setting a positive example for their staff in personification and discipline. Anyone in the healthcare setting who fails to live up to these standards when caring for our immigrant populations should be removed. Disrespectfulness or hostility, including incomplete or marginal care, must not be tolerated in any form. Support and protect your fellow nurses in guaranteeing a comprehensive, positive experience for every patient they meet.

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