The National Academy of Medicine (2021) report, The Future of Nursing 2020-2030, speaks to nurses’ crucial role in reducing health disparities and advancing health equity. Key areas to strengthen the nursing workforce include leadership, education, well-being, and emergency preparedness and response to affect determinants of health, all of which can be positively impacted by nursing professional development (NPD) practice. For example, education is an essential responsibility of NPD practice. NPD practitioners use the education design process and provide learning activities to improve and enhance professional practice (Harper & Maloney, 2022).
Understanding Inclusive Language: Current Knowledge Gap
In 2022, the fourth edition of the Nursing Professional Development: Scope and Standards of Practice was published. To meet evolving healthcare needs, Standard 9: Respectful and Equitable Practice was added to provide specific NPD considerations for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This performance standard has 20 accompanying competency statements for NPD practitioners to practice with cultural humility and inclusiveness (Harper & Maloney, 2022). One aspect is focused on using inclusive learning activities and materials to support the needs of diverse learners. With approximately 7,500 diverse Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) members, there is an opportunity to standardize our approach to oral and written communication to promote equity and inclusion. The American Psychological Association (APA) (2023) Inclusive Language Guide is one resource to leverage as we aim for this goal.
Standard 9 provides foundational competencies for respectful and equitable practice, including the importance of developing safe environments for learners. One way this can be achieved is by adapting standardized processes to increase inclusion. The ANPD DEI Committee, previously a task force (2018-2023), is committed to establishing an environment of inclusivity and sharing respectful and equitable practices with the NPD community by providing recommendations and resources. Using inclusive language in communication, education, and dissemination is critical. However, there is a gap in standardized implementation and knowledge of resources. NPD practitioners can benefit from a best practice resource such as this one as they develop education and communicate inclusively in their oral and written communication and presentations.
Using inclusive language is about embracing communication that creates cultures where people can feel free to be their authentic selves (Andoh, 2021). The DEI Committee commits to reviewing opportunities to implement inclusive language throughout NPD practice, including available tools and resources, daily application into the educational design process, and microlearning video development as a creative way to engage learners.
Diving Into One Resource: APA’s Inclusive Language Guide
One of the resources identified by the DEI Committee is the APA Language Style Inclusive Language Guide (ILG), which was initially published in December 2021, with a second edition released in October 2023. This guide raises awareness and provides origins of phrases and definitions. APA’s intent in developing this guide was to utilize mindfulness of being inclusive in one's oral and written communications and center the perspectives and voices of marginalized groups to avoid perpetuating harm and foster true equity, diversity, and inclusion (APA, 2023). The APA developed this guide alongside public interest committees representing multiple socially marginalized groups to ensure the inclusion of many perspectives. For the second edition, feedback from engaged parties, including the public and international ethnic psychological associations, was collected and reviewed. This work has culminated in a guide that provides foundational knowledge and definitions in the realms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, in addition to providing examples of potentially harmful language and the inclusive terms that can be used instead.
The ANPD DEI Committee, composed of volunteer members, voted to agree to recommend that this guide can and should be implemented into daily NPD practice. One of the simplest ways to begin using the ILG is to create intentionally inclusive learning environments throughout the educational design process. This can be done through a proactive review of any socially marginalized populations or DEI concepts that will be part of the educational activity, including case studies or any other activities in addition to the content. By proactively reviewing key definitions and identifying inclusive versus harmful terms, a new, inclusive perspective can be used when developing content. Incorporate these principles not only throughout the content development but also in the plans for content delivery. Ensure that speakers’ notes, handouts, and additional resources provided are free of harmful language. By using inclusive language, the psychological safety of learners can be enhanced, specifically for those who are part of socially marginalized groups. The intentionality behind the actions taken supports the development of inclusive learning environments, where all individual learners have the support needed to meet the measurable outcomes through content design and delivery.
The APA ILG microlearning animated video by the DEI Committee emphasizes the integration of DEI in educational design and delivery. The committee used a multimodal approach of visual aids, spoken word, and written text. This included closed captioning to accommodate diverse learning needs, ensuring accessibility. The video was created as a resource for developing nursing education, professional development activities, and online platforms to reach those who influence learning and practice environments. By aligning with Standard 9, the video not only addresses the how of inclusive language in APA Style, but also underscores the why behind fostering DEI in NPD practice. This resource serves as a testament to the commitment to DEI principles and contributes to the ongoing efforts to create inclusive learning environments that empower learners from all backgrounds.
The Journey Toward Inclusivity
Learners, especially those from socially marginalized groups, benefit from the use of inclusive language in the development and delivery of educational activities. Through intentional inclusion, learners may have a sense of improved value and belonging while also experiencing fewer microaggressions and insults. Harmful language can have a lasting impact professionally and personally. NPD practitioners role model culturally humble and sensitive behaviors by increasing awareness of harmful language and creating safe environments for learning.
Allyship requires action. The integration of the ILG into practice allows NPD practitioners to serve as allies in all practice environments. NPD practitioners must use their influence not only within their own practice, but also in increasing awareness of harmful language within all professional roles and outside the work environment. As we continue to learn and grow in our understanding of inclusive language, we must stay open to and aware of new changes and updates. The ILG and supporting references will be reviewed and updated every three years, providing up-to-date information as language evolves. Inquiries may be directed to the APA.
Andoh, E. (2022). Why Inclusive Language Matters. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2022/09/inclusive-language
American Psychological Association. (2023). Inclusive language guide (2nd ed.). https://www.apa.org/about/apa/equity-diversity-inclusion/language-guidelines.pdf
Harper, M. G., & Maloney, P. (Eds.). (2022). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice. (4th ed.). Association for Nursing Professional Development.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2021). The future of nursing 2020-2030: Charting a path to achieve health equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25982