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Dal alum aims to improve Canadian policy and education programs to better support Black nurses

Posted by Josey Houle, Dal Health Communications Intern with input from “Black nurses in the nursing profession in Canada: a scoping review” on September 21, 2022 in Alumni & Friends
Dal alum Dr. Keisha Jefferies has completed a timely, much needed, and highly anticipated publication on the available literature related to Black nurses in Canada.
Dal alum Dr. Keisha Jefferies has completed a timely, much needed, and highly anticipated publication on the available literature related to Black nurses in Canada.

Dr. Keisha Jefferies (BScN’13, MN’17, PhD Nursing’22) is a bright star in the field of Canadian nursing scholarship, advocating for inclusion in the profession across the country, and shining light on inequities in Canadian healthcare.

After three years devoted to its completion, Dr. Jefferies was ecstatic to share “Black nurses in the nursing profession in Canada: a scoping review,” with the world. Published in June in the International Journal for Equity in Health, this article shares truths in Canadian nursing that have largely gone unacknowledged. These truths include Black nurses’ contributions to the profession, and the anti-Black racism embedded within the nursing education and practice across the country. With their findings, Jefferies’ team aims to transform Canada’s nursing workforce through policy and education programs — Jefferies insists it’s the only way to instill systemic change that better supports Black nurses working in Canada.

“We have to reckon with history, understand how that influences the present, and think: what can we do to shape a more inclusive and progressive future for nursing, and for society in general?” she explained.

The research team used a systematic and internationally recognized methodology to conduct their review. Under Jefferies’ leadership, the team charted peer-reviewed and grey literature including primary and secondary sources, oral histories, and reports. Jefferies’ team addressed two main objectives in their review:

  • Describe how Black nurses have been represented in the literature
  • Map existing evidence to inform knowledge gaps and priorities for future research

From the included literature, Jefferies’ team conceptualized five categories: leadership and career progression, historical situatedness, racism and discrimination, immigration, and diversity in the workforce. The included literature used a range of methodologies, such as anti-racist frameworks, Black feminist theory, postcolonial feminist perspectives, and intersectionality.

Jefferies appreciated learning how different researchers implement non-traditional frameworks into their research including data collection and analysis: “We need to integrate non-traditional ways of knowing, theoretical frameworks, and perspectives into our research and practice. We need to carve out space for narratives and voices that have been historically excluded and continue to be marginalized,” she explained.

Because such little documentation exists on the history of Black nursing in Canada, the research team had to work especially hard to uncover the truths they strove to better understand. This struggle isn’t new to Jefferies — her prior publications address the lacking data on Black health and nursing in Canada.  As a solution, Jefferies promotes race-based research as necessary to attaining equity in Canadian nursing. She also champions including a trusted librarian on research teams – especially for systematic reviews of any sort.

Jefferies expressed her gratitude for the review’s funding, generously granted from Dal Health’s Nursing Research and Development Fund. This research grant enabled Jefferies to hire two African Nova Scotian research assistants.  She was thrilled by the opportunity to mentor and supervise two research assistants — mentorship is integral to her work as a PhD.

Nova Scotia Health, the Canadian Nurses Association, and several other key stakeholders have already expressed interest in the review findings. Furthermore, Jefferies is working closely with associations that specialize in the mobilization of Black nurses in Canada, including the Black Nurses Association of Nova Scotia, and the Pan-Canadian Nurses of African Descent Association.


Before commencing her doctoral studies, Jefferies completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at Dalhousie. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Education at York University in Toronto. Her academic and advocacy work centres on addressing anti-Black racism in nursing, post-secondary admissions and in social justice across the country. She is the co-founder of Dal’s Community of Black Students in Nursing (CBSN). From 2019-2020, she was a Junior Fellow at the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance. In 2019, she received the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. In 2020, she received awards from the Killam Trust and from Research Nova Scotia.