I had a patient (out in California in 1996-97) that told me she did not want me taking care of her because she did not like people of my race. I went and told the Charge Nurse on duty who took me back to the patient's room, told the patient I was her nurse, and if she refused my caring for her, she was free to check out and go to another hospital. :chuckle
That woman watched me like a hawk when I was in her room. It took half the shift to get her to relax with me. I treated her like any of my patients so I believe that helped her to relax with me knowing I was not showing any partiality towards her.
At the end of my shift, I always go and say goodbye to my patients, and let them know we are changing shifts so they'll be getting another nurse. I let them know it was a pleasure caring for them, and I wish them well in their recovery.
As I always try to do, I did the same with that particular patient. She ended the conversation by saying she was sorry for her attitude and letting her prejudices prejudge me just because of the color of my skin. She told me I was a good nurse, and thanked me for not giving up on her and for taking good care of her.
One more racist won over by an act of kindness and sincerity! Bravo! It simply takes breaking the ice and not allowing our patients prejudices and negative vibes to rub off on us.
On one of my traveling nurse assignments, I was asked to take a new admit whose family refused to allow their son to be cared for by a caucasian nurse. I went into the room, explained to the family that I was going to assess their (grown) son, start an IV on him, then introduce them to their new nurse (who was caucasian). After spending time with them for that assessment period and IV start, I got to know them a little better and why they felt as they did. We talked. I left the room, got the nurse the patient had originally been assigned to, and we both entered that patients room where I introduced her to the family and the patient. I assured them she was a very good nurse, and if I were sick, I'd let her take care of me. They let her do her job that shift with their son without one negative word said to her. I checked on her periodically to make sure things were going okay with the patient and the family towards her, and she had no more problems with them.
As nurses, we are also responsible for how we relate to our patients and how potential patients may relate to us as a nurse.
When I have patients sharing a room (which is often the case), I pull back the curtain and ask them if they'd introduced themselves to one another. If they say no, I say to them perhaps they would like to tell each other their first names since they are going to be roommates until one or the other is discharged. They always cooperate. They no longer feel like they are sharing a bedroom with a total stranger when this is done.