Edie Brous
Nurse Attorney
118 East 28th Street
Room 404
New York, NY 10016
Tel. (212) 989-5469
Fax. (646) 349-5355

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In honor of Black History Month I’d like to pay tribute to Tonya Battle and Carlotta Armstrong. Imagine being an experienced neonatal ICU nurse. And imagine that you are providing those highly-developed skills to the care of a newborn. And imagine that the infant’s swastika-tattooed father asks to have you removed from the case because he wants “no African-American nurses” taking care of his child. Now imagine that the hospital actually accommodates this outrageous request and posts a note on the assignment clipboard that says, "Please, no African-American nurses to care for (name of baby) per Dad's request. Thank-you." And for a month no African-American nurses are assigned to the baby.

Not in a small community hospital.
In the south.
In the last century.
In a world-acclaimed major medical center.
In Michigan.
In 2012.

The hospital attorney objected to the decision to honor the “no African-American nurses” assignment and after a month the hospital advised the father that they would no longer accommodate his request. Nurse Battle and Nurse Armstrong filed complaints with the EEOC. The hospital responded to the suits and the resulting publicity with corrective action. It was a nursing manager who took Nurse Battle off the assignment so, of course, the corrective action was to educate the staff on cultural diversity.

This was a management problem. It is very disturbing to think that any nursing supervisor would find the father’s request to be legitimate, reasonable, or appropriate. It is shameful that any nursing supervisor would be complicit in entertaining hateful bigotry against her staff. Employers should never allow their nurses to be the target of such intolerance. Patients and their families should never be permitted to indulge their prejudices at the expense of their providers. I hope these nurses received a heart-felt apology and genuine corrective action.

We have made a great deal of progress but it is sadly clear how much further we must evolve as a society. This father will try to pass his racism onto this infant. One day someone will have to explain to his child that despite Dad’s bigoted wishes and whether he likes it or not, Jim Crow is over. Nurse Battle and Nurse Armstrong are not going to the back of the bus.

Happy February.

More information about the case can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/michigan-hospital-racial-discrimination-hurley-medical-center_n_2727041.html
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Copyright © 2015, Edie Brous, RN, Esq.