In 1994, Deborah Washam and a group of other Black nurses mobilized, tired of not having a voice in other nursing organizations.
“We decided if we were going to have a voice in our profession, we needed to start our own organization,” Washam said.
And that’s what they did.
The group contacted the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) and became chartered as the Greater Kansas City Black Nurses Association (GKCBNA).
The original NBNA was organized in 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Lauranne Sams, former dean and professor at the School of Nursing at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The association now has more than 150,000 members.
Washam said there were few Black professional nurses who were actively included in nursing administration, policy and laws that govern the profession.
“Because we were not at the table when those decisions were being made, oftentimes they did not reflect the issues that African-American nurses were having in respect to workplace problems,” she said. “We didn’t have anybody to support us or give us advice or recommendations or how to express those concerns.”
When GKCBNA was chartered, the group had the NBNA there to guide them in how they could get their voices heard, support them and represent their concerns.
According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, 6.7% of registered nurses are Black. Less than 6% of Black nurses are in executive leadership positions.
There is also a high demand for nurses in general. It’s projected that there will be close to 200,000 openings for registered nurses every year through 2030 as nurses retire and patient demand increases.
A huge focus for the GKCBNA is mentoring the next generation of nurses to close that gap, and providing scholarships for students who may have financial needs inhibiting their ability to become a nurse.
There is a student membership and the group is open to all levels of nursing.
“We have work to do in the community and we need all the support we can get,” Washam said.
The association currently has about 40 active members who are involved in the many community events GKCBNA participates in.
The last two years, the association has been heavily involved in com – munity awareness about COVID and promoting COVID vaccination.
“Our main focus for the last two years is asking the community to get their COVID vaccinations and to avoid super-spreader events,” Washam said. “People are COVID fatigued and they think that because they’re sick of COVID, that COVID is sick of them, and that’s not the case. So, we have to keep that information in the community.”
You can find members of the association at community events like the Midwest Soul Vegfest, Juneteenth, food drives, vaccine and booster clinics, and wellness fairs.
“We’ve been in the community for a long time,” she said. “We are there to meet the needs of the community and in terms of education, updates or whatever they might need as far as health.”
Now that children are cleared to be vaccinated against COVID, the association has moved into schools, educating students on how to protect themselves from COVID and about the vaccine.
To join the GKCBNA or learn more, visit their website: www.gkcblacknurses.org/membership.htm.
The group meets every third Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. on Zoom.
“There is a sisterhood, a kinship that keeps me intact with this association,” Washam said. “The Greater Kansas City Black Nurses Association will be a part of the Kansas City community for years and decades to come.”