DEI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

by: Mandi Cafasso, DNP, APRN-CNP

The Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses (OAAPN) was founded in 1990, aiming to be the unified voice for Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs) in Ohio. To date, OAAPN is the largest and only full service statewide professional membership organization for APRNs of all specialties in the state of Ohio. In reviewing the mission and vision of the organization, it became evident that, over the years, we have neglected to incorporate a statement or plan regarding our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for our profession. 

Serving in a leadership role and mentoring students about the importance of involvement in professional organizations is one of the primary goals of many of our members. Our mission is to promote Advanced Practice Nursing through practice, education, advocacy, and leadership with a vision that Ohio APRNs will be recognized as leaders in providing affordable, accessible, quality healthcare for all Ohioans. So how will we accomplish this? In doing so, how do we commit to DEI as we strive to meet this mission and vision? 

Our board has spent the past year reflecting on our current mission, vision, and strategic goals. We have developed a plan to incorporate the principles of DEI at our core. The first step in this venture is to become more adept in these principles by defining diversity, equity, and inclusion relative to our organization. On the surface, these words may seem to have obvious meanings to many. For instance, according to Merriam- Webster, diversity is the inclusion of people of different races, cultures, etc. in a group or organization. 

However, we need to ensure that we are not only representing race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, etc., but also the diversity within our profession. The organization seeks to represent all APRNs in a unified voice, therefore we must understand the professional experience, training, skills, and specializations that exist within our APRN “umbrella” and beyond. 

The APRN “umbrella” includes, Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), and Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners (CRNPs). However, CRNPs are not currently defined by their specialties within OAAPN. Each of these professional certifications lends itself to various challenges in healthcare ultimately impacting the patients we serve. By broadening our definition of diversity to include specialties, we are also addressing the principle of inclusion. 

According to the Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Benchmarks written by the Centre for Global Inclusion, inclusion is not just the feeling of belonging but also the encouragement of a “culture and environment that ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. Inclusion also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, heard, engaged, motivated, and valued for who they are” (Molefi, et al., 2021). 

It is the hope of the organization that being inclusive of the differences within the profession will allow for a broader representation of APRNs and our patient populations. In doing so, we will become stronger advocates for the promotion of equitable healthcare as we continue our journey to remove practice barriers for all Ohio APRNs. The Association of American Medical Colleges says that equitable healthcare is the ability to give patients the care they need when they need it (Dawes, 2016). This statement is the driving force behind our organization’s strategic goal of elevating the voice of Ohio APRNs by optimizing effective and transparent communication as key players in development of healthcare policy while prioritizing the allocation of resources. We are committed to removing practice barriers for APRNs in the state, thereby expanding access to care for those who need it, when they need it.

As we become intentional with incorporating DEI principles into the organization, we will be providing education to our leaders to ensure our plan is sustainable and adaptable to a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. We welcome thoughts and ideas to assist in prioritizing our efforts. Our members may see gradual changes to our website, surveys to aid us in gaining a better understanding of our membership, and educational offerings to help you become more aware of how to provide healthcare that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Together we can accomplish great things for those in our communities and profession as we work towards better access to care for all Ohioans!