Much effort and encouraging outcomes are continuing in nine states developing projects to increase workforce diversity in nursing through The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Academic Progression in Nursing program.
In New Mexico, a statewide nursing education consortium is working toward growing workforce diversity by increasing education for under-represented groups, particularly in rural areas, said Judy Liesveld, PhD, PPCNP-BC, project director, APIN New Mexico Grant. Since the state’s 16 community colleges have the greatest reach into ethnically diverse populations, the consortium has helped create partnerships between state universities and community colleges.
Liesveld said the adoption of a statewide curriculum allows seamless transfer of credit into the two prelicensure schools. Students have the option of dual and concurrent enrollment for an ADN at their local community college and a BSN at a partnering New Mexico university. She said an estimated 60 students are in process or have recently completed their BSN.
Joseph P. Sánchez, MBA, program operations director, University of New Mexico College of Nursing, works on diversity initiatives. He said UNM’s health science office of diversity “has done innovative work to engage a diverse student population, working with prelicensure students in pipeline programs.”
For example, Sanchez explained that two programs have been developed and shared with all the community colleges with the hope each will adopt one as a means of increasing their diversity of nursing students. “We learned through an assessment of state nursing programs that our community colleges weren’t doing much around diversity — they just felt it would happen due to geographic location.”
One initiative, he said, brings junior and senior high school students from across the state to a six-week summer health careers academy at the university, with the aim of engaging their interest in a nursing career. Another is an enrichment program for freshman and sophomore college students considering a nursing career.
Judy Neubrander, EdD, RN, FNP-BC, director, School of Nursing, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C., said the Nursing Network Careers and Technology Mentoring Program prepares high school students to enter nursing school, supporting them in preparing for standardized testing and in math and science courses.
The technology portion engages 10th to 12th graders using a Second Life virtual campus platform to develop math and science skills. Students create an avatar and visit “patients” with conditions such as CHF in a virtual hospital. One high school connected to the Cherokee tribe is using the program by working on native health, exploring medicinal plants and healing.
On another level, WCU students who are underrepresented ethnic minorities and Appalachians can receive 1-1 mentoring with an RN, basic living stipends and scholarships.
Thus far, Neubrander said, “the numbers don’t seem big, but are huge for an underrepresented ethnic minority. We’ve had 10 of out 19 students in the program admitted to a nursing program.”
Another APIN grant is funding RN to BSN rural education and support, assisting underrepresented minority and Appalachian students to get the academics they need to go back to school for their degrees.
One discovery, Neubrander said, has been that academic and financial support aren’t the only barriers. She said even when money, mentoring and support are provided success is less likely for students “if they haven’t had the foundation in middle and high school to prepare them.”
For example, students with incarcerated parents have more hurdles to overcome. “You need to find out what’s gone in the student’s personal life, because they need to learn major life skills, like coping; they need to improve their circumstances.”
Neubrander said a newly formed diversity alliance’s goal is a unified approach among all the private and public colleges and universities.
Mary Dickow, MPA, FAAN, statewide director of the California Action Coalition, said California’s APIN strategy, like New Mexico’s, includes collaborative models among state universities partnering with community colleges.
“The partnerships with the community colleges are key to diversifying our BSN-prepared nursing workforce,” she said. The largest collaboration is at California State University Los Angeles, which has partnered with 12 community colleges with APIN funding.
The 12 community colleges represent a very diverse student population, she said, with the most recent cohort of 80 students at double what the schools can admit in their traditional BSN program. “Many students come from a family where they are the first to attend college and are first- or second-generation immigrants,” Dickow said.
Dickow said partnerships have increased the state’s ability to achieve diversity outcomes that match the population. Also, a program-specific academic counselor/adviser was hired to collaborate with community college partners, meet with students on site at each community college and provide individualized counseling and guidance for students. The project coordinator and counselor provide hands on support to the students. Slowly, steadily, focused attention to diversity in the nursing workforce is bearing fruit. Other states with APIN grants are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Texas and Washington.