By Stefanie Dell’Aringa
Dan Suarez, MA, RN, is business development manager for Nurse.com and OnCourse Learning and president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. He is a board member of the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices and a fellow at the New York Academy of Medicine. As president of NAHN, Suarez is committed to leading, promoting and advocating for education, professional and leadership opportunities for Hispanic nurses.Daniel M. Suarez, RN
What do you do as an organization to create a more diverse workforce?
A: NAHN received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to implement a public education and outreach project to increase diversity in the nursing workforce. Our project partner, Hispanic Communications Network, will leverage its radio production expertise and national network of affiliate stations to record and broadcast a series of interviews featuring mentors and testimonials from nurses in Spanish and English.
We want to admit high school students into our association who are serious about becoming nurses as well as those who are in their first two years of college and want to go into nursing, but have not yet been admitted to a program. We can mentor them and expose them to an association that is willing to guide them through their education and career progression.
We have a large LGBT community in nursing, and NAHN wanted to make sure we embrace members who may have felt isolated or disconnected from the association. We developed a committee to address the needs of this community. We work consistently to raise awareness and increase understanding of the importance of diversity in the profession. I’m proud to be part of this association, one that embraces the richness of diversity and ensures that our members are a reflection of that diversity. We all come from different places. We may never totally erase discrimination, but we can continue to work on these challenges, not only as a country but also as a profession
Why do we need more students with diverse backgrounds and how can we attract them?
A: NAHN promotes recruitment of Hispanic students in nursing programs to increase the number of bilingual and bicultural nurses. With only 4% of RNs being of Hispanic background, we need more to serve the increasing number of Hispanics in the U.S. which is projected to reach 30% of the nation’s population by 2050.
By 2043, the U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in its history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Hispanic population will more than double between now and 2060. These statistics illustrate that nurses will be caring for a more progressively diverse population and that there is an increasing urgency to build a diverse RN workforce.When you have a diverse workforce, you have nurses with knowledge and skills to meet patients’ diverse needs. A patient’s cultural identification, spiritual affiliation, language and gender can all affect the care they need, and it is important nurses understand that. Diversity in the nursing workforce is being highlighted as a critical priority by organizations such as RWJF and AARP, and that makes me hopeful that there will be change.
We need to be consistent and open-minded when it comes to nursing students. Today, there are schools where the faculty doesn’t reflect the student body. We need to have those faculty members understand that in order to reach a diverse student body, they should take steps to be more diverse in their employment of minorities. According to the 2008 national sample survey of RNs, the largest sample to date, minority nurses were more likely to hold staff nurse positions than white, non-Hispanic nurses. Some organizations have very active programs that promote diversity in leadership, but the diversity gap in leadership continues.
What are the short- and long-term goals in regards to diversity?
A: Short-term, we need to mentor college students to help them get into nursing school and be successful there. We need to make sure the process of acceptance is fair and equal for all applicants by standardizing the acceptance process. We know schools can only take so many students because they a limited number of faculty to teach them. Some schools will place students on a waiting list, and many of them may take a different educational track. We don’t have the wherewithal to keep them in touch with the nursing profession as a career path, if they are waiting for an opening. We need to look at our educational system and change it from top to bottom to reflect what we need in the future.Faculty salaries have been stagnant, in fact they are dismal. Our nursing faculty is on the frontline, and we need to support them.
Long-term, many professional organizations don’t have a pipeline of young applicants. We need to help elementary schools focus more on healthcare, emphasize science and technology, and get students interested in the sciences in their early years. Overall, we need to look at how we’re developing our future health professionals. •
Stefanie Dell’Aringa is a freelance writer.
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