Nurses from minority backgrounds represent only 19% of the nursing population, with only 1% from the American Indian/Alaska Native culture, according to a July 13 news release from Washington State University College of Nursing in Spokane. The college recently received a $10,000 scholarship provided by Johnson & Johnson to benefit nursing candidate Leslie Randall, BSN, MPH, RN, a Native American who is pursuing a PhD at WSU and is a member of the Nez Perce tribe of Idaho.
“There are so few AIAN nurses compared to other races,” Randall said in the release. “We need our AIAN providers and nurses back home where they understand the culture and the population.”
In April 2014, the CDC reported a 46% higher death rate for AIAN people, along with a 50% higher suicide rate than Caucasians, according to the release. “AIAN nurses are on the front lines of health services for AIAN people and have the potential to make scientific contributions as well, but are severely underrepresented,” Robbie Paul, WSU Spokane director of Native American health sciences, said in the release. “Proactively addressing the lack of AIAN nurses is critical to reducing health disparities among native populations,” he said.
There are only 20 AIAN scholars pursuing PhDs in nursing in the US, and two of them are enrolled at WSU CON, according to the release.
“It is significant to note that American Indians/Alaska Natives frequently contend with issues that prevent them from receiving quality medical care,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website.
“These issues include cultural barriers, geographic isolation, inadequate sewage disposal and low income,” according to the U.S. Office of Minority Health website. Some of the causes of death among AIAN are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, diabetes and stroke.
There also is a high prevalence and risk factors for suicide, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome, among other risk factors, according to the U.S. Office of Minority Health.
A CDC report updated in April 2016 stated that 13% of the AIAN population is in fair or poor health, and 28% under age 65 had no health insurance coverage.
There are 5.1 million American Indian/Alaska Natives living in the US, representing 2% of the population, according to a 2013 Disparities Policy report published by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which listed significant barriers to care.
The WSU press released stated that “since 1997, WSU has had a memo of understanding with 10 tribes from the Pacific Northwest to strengthen relationships with AIAN people in the region. The MOU helped establish an AIAN advisory board to the WSU president and a Plateau Center to provide outreach to AIAN students. It complements a 1994 state law guaranteeing that AIAN students whose customary and legal boundaries include portions of Washington do not pay out-of-state tuition.”
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For more information on cultural competence, read the CE module, “Mind your manners … Multiculturally.”