Our list of influential Black nurses includes giants in the field of nursing. These leaders in the field are educators, researchers, and practitioners who treat patients while also advocating for diversity in the field of nursing. Their care for patients and their commitment to healthcare reform are paving the way for the next generation of nurses.
Find out where the most influential Black scholars and leaders across all fields earned their degree with a look at The Colleges with the Most Influential Black Graduates.
Nursing is a broad field, categorized by their specific responsibilities. Registered nurses perform exams, provide counseling and education, administer medications, and coordinate patient care with other professionals. Advanced practice registered nurses diagnose and treat illnesses, advise the public on health issues, and can, depending on training, administer anesthetics and provide gynecological and obstetrical care. Licensed practical nurses check vital signs and provide basic nursing care.
In 2017, the National Nursing Workforce Survey was conducted and found that 6.2% of the registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. were African American. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has defined strategies for enhancing diversity among the nursing population, including offering mini-grants in conjunction with the NIH for health-initiatives targeted at underrepresented communities, advocating for federal funding for programs committed to increasing diversity in nursing, and providing nursing education opportunities to minority groups.
Nurses who have earned doctoral degrees are often found teaching and researching in academia, publishing, and providing expert policy advice as members of various private and governmental boards and agencies. Influential Black nurses have contributed to the field of nursing and medical care in profound ways. Below are highlights of the accomplishments of a few of the influential Black nurses in our ranking:
Did you know that there is a constant demand for well-qualified nurses? And as the healthcare sector continues to expand, the demand for nurses is expected to remain high. This makes nursing one of the best jobs of the future.
The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.
Find out more about our Methodology.
Influence is dynamic, therefore some of the nurses listed are contemporary while others may be more historical figures. In either case, according to our AI, these are the most cited and searched Black nurses over the past 30 years.
List is arranged alphabetically
Adjunct Professor at Northern Kentucky University and Professor Emerita at University of Cincinnati. Bankston has years of experience in leadership, equity, and inclusion. She has also been a social justice activist and an agent of sustainable culture change in both the workplace and in her local community.
Dean of the School of Nursing and Professor in Family and Community Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. Barksdale was the first Black faculty member to achieve the rank of Full Professor in University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Nursing, where she led both the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program for thirteen years. In 2010, Dr. Barksdale was appointed to the Board of Governors for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) under the Obama Administration.
Dr. Barksdale is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the National League for Nursing Academy of Nursing Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Primary Health Care Policy Leadership Program, the Wharton AACN Executive Leadership Program, and the American Academy of Nursing.
Dr. Cuellar earned her nursing degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 1990. She then went on to obtain her doctorate degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 2006. She serves as a Continuing Nursing Education Consultant where she regularly contributes to the Journal of Holistic Nursing. Dr. Cuellar was an Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Admissions at University of Texas Medical Branch for five years and in the faculty role for seven years. She also served as President of the UTMB School of Nursing Alumni Association.
A 30-year employee of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Professor of nursing at UMMC for 24 years. Fletcher previously served as the School of Nursing’s Director for Multicultural Affairs. In 2020, Fletcher received the Presidential Award of Honor from 100 Black Men of Jackson, Mississippi, an organization that he was involved in for more than 15 years.
Fletcher has published extensively, in journals such as Nursing Clinics of North America and the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.
Gipson-Jones is an Assistant Professor of Health Science at Stockton University. Her areas of expertise include family nursing, community health, and health disparities research. She received a PhD from Hampton University.
Gipson-Jones has published in multiple journals including Ethnicity & Health, the The Journal of School Nursing, and the Journal of Transcultural Nursing, among others.
Phyllis Sharps is the Elsie M. Lawler Endowed Chair, associate dean for community programs and initiatives, and a professor emerita at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Dr. Sharps is the director for the Center for Community Innovations and Scholarships.
Her practice and research examine the consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV) among pregnant and parenting women, specifically the effects of IPV on the physical and mental health of pregnant women, infants, and very young children. She has published numerous articles on improving reproductive health and reducing violence among African American women.
Patsy R. Smith is an assistant professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. Smith is the President of the Association of Black Nursing Faculty, as well as a Women in Science Denistry Medicine and Health (WiSDMH) Executive Committee Member. Her research focuses on substance abuse and mental illiness in older adults in vulnerable communities.
Lisa Whitfield-Harris is an associate professor and the Program Director of Community Systems Administration at Thomas Jefferson University. Her research and clinical interests include diversity in nursing and healthcare, health disparities, transcultural nursing, minority student experiences, workplace culture, and social justice.
Whitfield-Harris has published works in a number of journals, including the Journal of Transcultural Nursing, Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Journal of Nursing Education, and Ethnicity & Health.
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