Ep 106 – Speaking for Those Who Can’t: The Role of Nurses in Advocating for Vulnerable Populations, with Sharrica Miller, Ph.D., RN

This week is Nurses Week – a time for all of us to reflect on the contributions that nurses make to our society. During this important time of observance for one of our most valued professions in caring for those most in need, we invited Dr. Sharrica Miller to join us for an important conversation.  Dr. Miller is a Cal State University, Fullerton nursing professor who teaches several nursing classes, including pediatrics, writing, research, and mentoring. But she brings more into her classroom than just her vast knowledge and experience in nursing; Dr. Miller also shares the 12 years she spent in the foster care system.

This period left an indelible impression on her, and she decided that once she made it out of the foster care system, she would reach back and help others.  To that aim, she has become a national leader in helping nurses use their platform to advocate for vulnerable populations in the community. Casey Family Programs recently awarded Dr. Miller with the 2021 Casey Excellence Award, a national recognition for her work with foster youth in several organizations, including California Youth Connection. Dr. Sharrica Miller is not only a nurse educator, renowned public speaker, and DEI strategist — she is a servant leader and advocate for the most vulnerable in our society.


Episode Bookmarks:

01:25 Reflections on Nurses Week and Introduction to Sharrica Miller, PhD, RN

02:25 National recognition for her service in helping children transition out of foster care

03:25 The hardship and instability of Dr. Miller’s childhood and how she broke the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage

05:35 Determination to take control of her life once emancipated from the foster care system

06:20 A mission in service to others as an advocate began when gaining custody of her siblings as a young adult

07:30 Lessons in mentorship that inspired her to “speak for those who can’t” and how COVID-19 impacted the foster care system

09:20 The promise of education in breaking the cycle of poverty and despair (“Education was my ticket to freedom.”)

11:00 How the learning environment and minority representation at Howard University propelled her to success

12:00 The importance of mentorship and creation of “safe spaces” on college campuses for minority nursing students

12:40 “Nursing programs need to be actively anti-racist to identify structural barriers.  It is not enough to just value diversity.”

14:00 Why representation from minorities is so important in Higher Education

15:00 Overcoming a victimhood mindset brought about by old emotional pain through hardship

16:30 “You must develop an internal locus of control.  You can either change your perspective of a problem or change your situation.”

18:40 Inspiration from Eckhart Tolle in overcoming a victim mentality by stopping “pain-bodies”that control our thinking.

19:40 The dangers of over-internalizing success or failure

21:30 “In preparing to lead transformational change, you must first do the work inside. That allows you to show up with the stamina to fail forward.”

23:20 Using failure as a learning opportunity to adapt one’s approach to change management

24:30 The plight of racial injustice in our society and the disparities that are built into the American healthcare system

26:00 “Minorities are expected to be majority by 2050.  We need to think about this in preparing the healthcare workforce for tomorrow.”

28:00 “Teaching nursing students about Social Determinants of Health can actually do harm if we only teach at the surface level.”

29:00 “Racism is a social determinant of health.”

30:00 A recent study confirming that racism exists in nursing (63% of nurses have experience acts of racism in the workplace)

31:30 Dr. Miller discusses the history of racism in nursing and how leadership should addresses reported incidents of “Nursing while Black”

35:00 Addressing the “race card” response when attempting to foster a better understanding about the presence of racism in our society

38:00 Leveraging value-based payment models to explicitly incentivize health equity and disparities reduction

40:20 The challenge with nurses finding their voice to speak up about social injustice, and the opportunity for nursing education to cultivate broader activism

43:30 The moral responsibility of health system leaders to listen to nurses at the bedside who vocalize concerns about structural barriers

45:30 Cultural competence as the bedrock of a great nurse-patient relationship

47:30 Social and emotional intelligence as a competency for culturally competent care

49:00 Developing nursing education pipeline programs and inclusive recruitment practices for historically excluded populations

50:00 Protecting the sanctity of “safe places” in nurse learning environments to foster the idealized minority student experience

52:45 Referencing a recent article in Health Affairs showing a decline in registered nurse employment in 2021—the sharpest decline in the last 40 years

54:00 The recent criminal conviction of an individual nurse for a medical error and how that could have a longstanding negative impact on the nursing profession

55:00 The lack of support for young nurse early careerists (and the inability of more experienced nurses to support them during COVID-19)

56:00 Out of touch leaders who are addressing nursing burnout with pizza parties and pats on the back

56:45 AACN report showing enrollment increases in nurse education programs

57:30 The passionate commitment of nurses and how that compares to police officers and the military

61:00 The prioritization of a nurse protecting his or license over keeping their job

62:00 Dr. Miller provides parting thoughts on Nurses Week  – the importance of prioritizing working environments over pizza parties

63:00 Check out Dr. Miller’s new documentary, “Still Waters Never Crash” about her resilient journey from foster care to nurse leader and educator!