Under the aegis of the Diversity Impact (DI) Program at Frontier
Nursing University, faculty and students are the vanguard of the movement to diversify
the ranks of nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives and improve health care
conditions among the underserved and marginalized.
Frontier’s current Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Dr. Maria Valentin-Welch, takes great pride in the students’ achievements during and after their participation in the DI program, and says: “they are applying what is taught here in regard to diversity, inclusion, and equity, not only within their new areas of employment as graduates but across their communities. Some have established underserved programs, birth centers, and international programs. These students are passionate advocates for the underserved and disenfranchised people. They are the future catalyst of change.”
In addition to distributing some $300,000 in scholarship funds received through their Health Resources and Services Administration’s Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant, the program has implemented diversity training sessions for all faculty and staff and added diversity discussions to student orientation sessions. DI participants are also encouraged to attend annual conferences dedicated to fostering a more diverse, culturally aware health care workforce—where, under the guidance of a faculty mentor, students explore the benefits of active participation in professional nursing organizations.
The thriving program at Frontier received a 2018
Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award
from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, and was cited as
a “Top College for Diversity.” In addition, the magazine added Dr.
Valentin-Welch herself to their Top 25 Women in Higher Education roster of standout
diversity advocates at US colleges and universities.
For an experienced professional proponent of diversity
and inclusion, the most daunting challenge, according to Valentin-Welch, is maintaining
belief in the goal of “uniting folks while our nation is receiving messages of
division and promoting actions of division and lack of compassion… However, I
feel midwifery and nursing have always held an important role in not only
listening to people, but also advocating for what is right.”
For further details on the Diversity Impact Program at
Frontier Nursing University, visit here.
There is much discussion about the need for diversity in nursing and the importance of educating a health care workforce that mirrors the population. Recently, Dr. Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association wrote, “A diverse workforce allows us to use our varying cultural perspectives to ensure all patients and populations receive optimal and empathic care, which also may speed up their recovery and reduce the risk of preventable chronic conditions.”
Powerful words – “speed up their recovery and reduce the
risk of preventable chronic conditions” – which are exactly the actions and
goals we should be striving to achieve in an effort to increase the health of
the population and eliminate health disparities.
While contemplating diversity in nursing, a few key population statistics are worth considering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49.2% of the American population are men, 41.5% of the American population are of a race other than Caucasian, and 21.3% of the American population speaks a language other than English at home.
However, according to the 2017 National Nursing Workforce Survey, just over 9% of working RNs are men, and only 19.2% are minorities. While reliable data about the number of nurses who speak a language other than English is scarce, based on the statistics demonstrated above, it’s unlikely this number mirrors the population.
In order to reduce health disparities by addressing inequalities and eliminating care gaps, it is critical to educate a vast and diverse health care workforce. The systems that educate and train nurses should place a focus on increasing the diversity of their nursing student population. Another key step is to make programs increasingly accessible through holistic admissions processes to admit a larger number of qualified nursing students.
Additionally, providing students with exposure to patients of all types of backgrounds and demographics during education and training, will help them achieve a better understanding of patient needs and how they can connect with them to provide quality care and improved experiences. Diversity in all its forms, from innate characteristics including age, race, and mental health to acquired characteristics like religion, education, and language skills, requires an awareness and respect for every person. This helps transition students from viewing their work through a cultural competence to a more inclusive lens of cultural humility.
Building cultural humility begins with a better understanding of the unique challenges every student faces and putting in steps and processes for helping them succeed while in their program. By teaching students that they are cared for, students are able to better focus on providing exceptional care for others. Putting each student at the forefront at each touchpoint and never letting them lose sight of their passion for health care, helps them become an extraordinary nurse who cares for others.
While minority enrollment in nursing programs have nearly doubled in the last twenty years, nursing has a long way to go in appropriately representing minorities in the United States (source). The current enrollment data is insufficient to address the needs of a future diverse nursing workforce. It is imperative to advocate for minority nurses in both higher education and the profession.
Diversity in Professional Nursing
Increasing diversity among nurses is a core value of the profession. The National League for Nursing promotes diversity by endorsing a culture of inclusion and excellence by celebrating a diverse population of professionals. The American Nurses Association has a professional commitment to awareness of diversity issues and the individual nurse’s biases and perceptions. For the culmination of a diverse nursing workforce to take root, schools must aim to recruit, enroll, and retain minority nursing students.
Diversity Among Student Nurses
Modern nursing programs work to disseminate a curriculum that concentrates on how to address health disparities among ethnic minorities and others who face socioeconomic barriers. Early recruitment programs that value diversifying nursing education can bolster student retention and graduation (source).
The Diversity Impact Program
For example, Frontier Nursing University increases student recruitment and retention through the Diversity Impact Program. This program offers cultural awareness and support through a social network, activities, and events during the year to connect students, including a Diversity Impact conference.
By implementing a model where student nurses embrace and encourage cultural awareness, student retention and satisfaction improves. Creating an engaging model that embraces cultural diversity is imperative to minimize student attrition. When student nurses support each other, it enhances the outlook for the entire nursing profession.
The University of Virginia (UVA) School of Nursing recently received a Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, which covers diversity in higher education. This was the first time UVA’s nursing school has been honored and they were among 35 health professions schools nationwide to receive a 2018 HEED Award.
Lenore Pearlstein, INSIGHT Into Diversity’s publisher, tells News.Virginia.edu, “The Health Professions HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees – and best practices for both; continued leadership support for diversity; and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion.”
Since establishing an initiative on Diversity, Inclusion, and Excellence Achievement (IDEA) in 2014, UVA’s nursing school has shifted its recruitment, admissions, and retention strategies to welcome more underrepresented and first-generation applicants, established affinity groups for students of color, initiated expansive diversity training for faculty and staff, and urged professors to incorporate diverse perspectives and inclusive content into their courses.
UVA nursing faculty and graduate teaching assistants attend trainings across a variety of diversity-related topics, and all nursing students take part in cultural humility training and a plethora of regular activities to drive the school’s message of inclusivity. In 2018, nearly a third of enrolled students are from groups underrepresented in nursing, and more than 17 percent are male.
To learn more about UVA Nursing’s Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, visit here.
Holly Forlenza and Eileen Forlenza, a nonverbal motivational speaker and her mother, both advocates for family involvement in health care, will present the January 2019 Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) Dean’s Diversity Lecture on Monday, January 14, 2019.
Their lecture titled “From Try to Triumph: The Journey of a Nonverbal Young Adult” will be open to the Vanderbilt community. Holly Forlenza is unable to speak and was diagnosed with severe mental retardation, epilepsy, and failure to thrive when she was 2 years old. In 2011, when she was 22, she began using an iPad and keyboard to communicate and has since become an advocate for the empowerment of nonverbal people. Her book, Just Because I Can’t Talk Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Have Anything to Say, tells her story and calls for inclusion and compassion.
Her mother, Eileen Forlenza, has been Holly’s advocate from her birth. Her personal experience with parenting and dealing with the health care, education, care coordination, and insurance systems has made her an expert in speaking on the importance of family engagement. Her advocacy and support of policy development on behalf of children with disabilities resulted in an invitation from President Barack Obama to join him at the White House to mark the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, VUSN dean, and the Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing, tells Nursing.Vanderbilt.edu, “Patient- and family-centered care improves patients’ health and the quality of health care. Yet as Holly and Eileen Forlenza can attest, sometimes people with disabilities don’t have a voice in their own care decisions – and sometimes the family’s knowledge and input aren’t utilized. I think the Forlenzas’ personal perspectives will challenge our assumptions and encourage us to consider patient and family care differently.”
The VUSN Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series was established in 2016 to explore the diversity of backgrounds, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints in our world today. It seeks to equip students, faculty, staff, and other community members with the knowledge and understanding needed to lead nursing forward in a global society.
To learn more about Holly and Eileen Forlenza, VUSN’s next diversity series lecturers, visit here.
The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON) has received the 2018 INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education “Excellence in Diversity” Health Professions award for its committed efforts to support and sustain diversity and inclusion through education, programs, and outreach. The award is a national honor recognizing individual health institutions showing outstanding achievement in making diversity a top priority.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded into the strategic plan and overall mission at JHSON. Faculty, students, and staff are provided opportunities for collective cultural exchanges and experiences through encouragement from leadership and the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Efforts to promote respect for differing views and backgrounds are weaved into curriculum development, scholarships, recruitment, partnerships, and strategy.
Gloria Ramsey, JD, RN, FNAP, FAAN, who was appointed to serve as inaugural associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion to further the school’s diversity and its impact on innovation, education, practice, research, and service, tells Newswise.com:
“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is clearly evident and well integrated into the operations of the school. Our entire community should feel proud and honored to receive the HEED Award because it represents a collective effort and underscores our values and commitment to inclusive excellence for 21st century nursing. As we celebrate the progress we have made, we continue to hold ourselves accountable to continue important work, be open to new ideas, and think forward toward creating a more diverse and inclusive environment in the future.”
JHSON also focuses on advancing social justice in the community, cultural competence education, and minority awareness celebrations. Currently, 25% of faculty and 37% of students are from racial and ethnic minorities.
To learn more about the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing receiving the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education “Excellence in Diversity” Health Professions award, visit here.