When Susan OBrien, RN, EdD, assumed the role of dean of the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J., one of her first goals was to increase the percentage of minority faculty. It was a task that she quickly realized would be difficult to accomplish.
When she joined the college in 2001, roughly 25% of the students were minorities, compared to less than 10% of the faculty, called mentors at TESC. She started calling nursing schools around the country. Her recruitment efforts stalled for two reasons: The nation was facing a nursing faculty shortage, and minority educators comprised only 11% of that group.
Faced with this conundrum, OBrien came up with an idea. TESC was uniquely positioned to train educators how to teach courses remotely. She wrote a grant that would fund a program to recruit minority faculty to undergo this training. The program then would create a new national database to make these minority nurse educators accessible to nursing schools throughout the country.
I think role models are important for all people, OBrien said. If you have minority students, you should have minority educators. But I understand that the problem is often quite difficult to address, which is why I wrote the grant.
Funding paves the way
In 2005, the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing at TESC received a three-year grant of $600,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The money allowed TESC to promote the colleges 20-week Certificate in Distance Education Program to minorities. TESCs school of nursing, which was already well-established in distance learning modalities, offered the course free to outside minority faculty.
The educators enrolled in the program learned best practices in online education and how to create a course in Blackboard and add links, videos, tests, and quizzes. They also learned Net etiquette, or tips on how to communicate with students and colleagues remotely.Susan O’Brien, RN
Many people say they have taught online, but they may check in online only once a week, OBrien said. Our program is rigorous, and our educators are expected to be responding to questions and posts all the time.
After completing the course, the educators in the program participate in a 12-week preceptorship in which they work with an experienced faculty member to facilitate an online course. Educators who successfully complete the program are added to the online-certified minority nurse educators database, which has 90 minority faculty members.
Linda Battle, DNP, MSN, PHCNS-BC, was teaching part time when she read an article about the TESC program. She had been teaching a hybrid course a class both on campus and online and knew she needed a better understanding of how to teach remotely. The certification opened doors for her to start teaching at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, and American Sentinel University in Colorado.
One of the things I enjoy most about online courses is giving people an opportunity to pursue education who might not otherwise have had the opportunity, Battle said. When I was earning my masters degree, I had to drive 116 miles each way twice a week because online education was not very common.
Battle said her presence as a minority also has made an impact on some students in her courses.
Many students tell me they have never had an African-American professor, and I get so much positive feedback about that, Battle said. I tell them about scholarships available through different minority organizations, and I encourage them that they can do this.
Although more than 50 minority nursing educators are now on the waiting list to enroll in the certification program, OBrien has been surprised that relatively few nursing school deans are utilizing the database to find educators.
The programs next major goal is to increase awareness that the database is available. Schools can search for educators based on ethnicity, gender and areas of expertise. If deans find someone they are interested in, the name(s) are sent to TESCs diversity coordinator, who contacts the educator. The educator then contacts the school that expressed interest in them.
I think it is essential that schools address this problem because it is no longer acceptable to say, I have no minority nurse educators, OBrien said. I think that finding a faculty person online is a new idea, and I hope this will become an effective way of approaching a difficult issue in nursing.