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Hospital Bans Black Nurses From Caring for White Baby at Father's Request


Specializes in Geriatrics, Home Health. Has 10 years experience.

Customer service run amok.

FLINT, MI (WNEM) -A nurse is suing Hurley Medical Center over allegations of discrimination.

A lawsuit filed against Hurley claims she found a note in a patient's file stating, "No African American nurse to take care of baby."

According to court documents, the nurse was caring for a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when the baby's father asked to speak with a supervisor. The lawsuit states he told the nurse in charge that he didn't want any African Americans taking care of his baby, then he pulled up a sleeve showing a tattoo believed to be a Swastika.

The lawsuit states the baby was re-assigned to another nurse.

I'm a Black nurse in a very white state. During my tour of Nursing Home Hell, one resident added a note to his chart saying "Caucasian caregivers only." Oddly enough, he didn't mind when he had a Filipina nurse. They way I saw it, he was old, he wasn't going to change, and I wasn't going to make his bigotry my problem. If he didn't want me to take care of him, that was fine with me.


Specializes in Trauma-Surgical, Case Management, Clinic.

Did anyone hear about this? I saw it on CNN and found the article online.


Should patients have the right to refuse a nurse due to their race? I was just thinking that patients are allowed to refuse care based on a nurse's sex due to cultural/religious beliefs so should they have the right to refuse based on race? I am shocked that the hospital complied with this request.

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 16 years experience.

Here's the same story from CNN: Lawsuit: Race-based request sidelined Michigan nurse - CNN.com

I have to say I'm on the nurse's side on this one. The hospital was wrong in removing the nurse based on the baby's father's racist views. We had this situation come up once with an elective surgery patient. He was told either accept the providers we have, or take your business elsewhere. He chose to go elsewhere (although I don't know where, as he would have heard the same thing at all area hospitals).

I will admit, if I were the nurse, I would have voluntarily stepped aside, just because the father would have been unpleasant and may have made false allegations. However, the nurse should have had the choice, not the hospital.

Hopefuldogmom, LVN

Specializes in 4. Has 7 years experience.

It is 2013 but this does happen. Hasn't happened to me personally but I am bi-racial (half Puerto Rican & half Caucasian) who many presume to be mixed with African American so I can see it happening as a possibility. I have heard of this happening to other nurses in my hospital. This man is plain ignorant and kudos to the nurse for standing up for herself.

I am half mexican, and half caucasion, tho most people assume I'm just a white girl. I have experienced some incidents of racism for being 'mixed'.

But I'm not sure how I feel about this. If a patient asked to be assigned a male/female nurse, and a nurse got reassigned to accomodate the request would a nurse sue?

Good for the nurse for sticking up for herself, but is the hospital really responsible? All they did was accomodate a patient's request...

Like I said, I'm not really sure how I feel about this... I would be offended if this had happened to me, but don't know that it's worth a lawsuit.

I'm curious what the rest of you think.

I think she did the right thing. It is completely ridiculous to have the nurse be reassigned elsewhere, simply because that guy was racist. He should have reassigned himself elsewhere if it really bothered him that much. Also, I don't think the supervisors or management handled the situation very well, I think they should have defended the nurse. It is 2013 and we all know that skin color, whether white, brown, or purple, has nothing to do with anything! This bothers me and I am very happy the nurse did something about it. Good job!

I agree that, if the client has a problem with me for any crazy reason, I'm more than happy to step aside because that's the safest option for me. However, I, too, work for an organization that will honor requests for specific kinds of nurses if it's a religious/cultural matter (e.g., if your religion prohibits you having direct contact with a member of the other gender) but, if it's just plain ol' racism/bigotry, you take what (staff) we've got or you are welcome to take your business elsewhere.


As an African-American nurse, how dare that hospital honor the request of a racist bigot and have that baby re-assigned to another nurse simply because he felt the African-American nurse could not care for the baby based on the color of her skin. Not her nursing skills, but because she is black!

I hope that nurse get a million dollar settlement and an apology from the hospital. What a way to reward someone for 25 years of service.

HeartsOpenWide, RN

Specializes in Ante-Intra-Postpartum, Post Gyne.

I think it's a sick situation, but the hospital has to honor the patients request; he does have a right to refuse treatment even if its a sick and wrong reason. I suppose the hospital could tell him that there are no other nurses available to care for the child, but e might not believe it if he saw non black nurses working...but why would this nurse want to care for the child with a racist father? I imagine it would be very unpleasant. We have labor patients that refuse male nurses but the nurse never sues the hospital for sexual discrimination...

For people who say they are outraged, as a male nurse there have been several occasions where the patient wanted a female nurse and did not want to have me. Was I outraged? Did I sue my hospital? No. For those outraged, is gender discrimination not as bad as racial? Or is my situation ok just because I'm a man, and its not a female being discriminated against?

This woman sounds like somebody just fishing for a nice payout from their employer before retiring.

I think the hospital acted in her best interest, though that may not have been the intent.

Why would she want to be assigned to that baby?

If something adverse had happened, it would be far better that she was not involved.

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics. Has 11 years experience.

Threads merged to original in nursing news forum for continuity.

Bortaz, MSN, RN

Specializes in CDI Supervisor; Formerly NICU. Has 12 years experience.

I'm a white dude (and a minority by a LONG shot where I live), and I have been removed from caring for a baby twice at the request of parents. Once because I was a dude, and once because I was white and they wanted only Hispanic nurses.

I neither sued nor ended up on CNN either time. Hmm. Maybe I should have. Or maybe I should have gone on about my business, not letting it bother me...just as I did.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

While I haven't seen this exact situation, I have seen similar situations in which a patient asks that a particular nurse of type of nurse not be assigned to the case. In most such cases, it is in the best interests of the nurse for the hospital to comply with the patient's request. If they don't, that nurse will be vulnerable to unjust accusations and law suits (as will the hospital).

Remember: it isn't the hospital saying that there is anything wrong with the African American nurses. It is the patient who has the prejudice. And patients have the right to refuse care. Yes. it's ugly ... and there are ugly, unjust prejudices behind it. But sometimes, it is best to avoid a fight -- rather than purposely antagonizing such a patient by denying their request.

Another option in some cases is for the hospital to say that it cannot reasonably comply with the request due to scheduling/assignment needs and offer to help the patient find another health care facility to transfer to. Personally, that response would be my preference.

applewhitern, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 30 years experience.

I have known of 3 instances (in my long nursing career) where the patient's family member "claimed" that a male staff member did something inappropriate. In one instance, we worked in pediatric ICU and the baby's mother claimed the male RN touched the baby inappropriately; the other two involved male CNA's. The two CNA's had worked there for many years, but were fired. Personally, I would rather simply not take care of them because they might make up some frivolous claim and cause more grief in the long run. I live in the deeeep south, and see racism everyday, but it goes both ways. I have had black patients refuse to talk to me because I am white; I would have to get a black nurse or CNA to come into the room. I have also (recently) had patients call the black nurse a vulgar name. Yes, racism is wrong, but I know I can't fix it in one shift at the hospital, so I would rather simply not take care of the racist patients. Oh, by the way, both CNA's that were fired were black males; the male RN that wasn't fired was white. Back in the 80's, my first RN job was with 2 black LPN's. Those two ladies taught me everything I know!