New grant addresses minority nurse shortage


Many heath care systems are seeking new ways to address the continuing nursing shortage in America, which has nursing homes, hospitals and institutions of higher learning struggling to hire and retain qualified professionals.

But faculty in the department of nursing at Temple University's College of Health Professions now have a plan in place to reduce the shortage by increasing the number of African Americans and Hispanics entering into the profession.

Nursing professor Karen M. Schaefer, D.N.Sc., R.N., recently secured funding from the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help local students who want to become nursing professionals achieve their dream. The $500,000 award will be used over the next three years to provide support to students from the North Philadelphia area entering into the first year of their nursing program.

Schaefer and her colleagues hope that the "Developing Diverse Diamonds Project" (DDDP) will open doors for those whose "financial, academic and personal" circumstances limit their educational pursuits. To help these individuals, two full-time nursing faculty members will work with Schaefer to develop a set of "culturally sensitive activities" to supplement each student's current academic curriculum.

The 15 juniors invited to participate in the project also must attend weekly "Professional Development Sessions," where they will learn how to manage stress and time, take notes, study and take tests in classes and how to prepare for the culturally diverse environment that they will enter upon graduation.

"It is expected that all students will graduate in two years…, maintain their self esteem [and] use of healthy coping skills by graduation and [that] 90 percent of diverse students will pass the NCLEX-RN [national licensure exam] the first time," said Schaefer.

The second component of the project will use the DDDP nursing students and other nursing volunteers to teach grade school students about nursing and health care. Twenty to 25 fifth- and sixth-graders from primarily African-American and Hispanic schools will meet four times a year for DDDP's academy. Schaefer hopes that exposing the children to different aspects of health, nutrition and culture in a fun atmosphere will excite them and further their interest in nursing as a career.

"The success of the project will be measured using admission, retention, attrition and graduation rates," said Schaefer, who ultimately expects diversity within Temple's nursing school to increase by 5 percent over the next three years.

This project, due to begin in September 2004, may in the near future become a model for other institutions as recommendations from state governmental agencies begin filtering down to health care administrators. In its first-ever White Paper on the nursing work force released earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health encouraged health care systems to employ a work force that reflects area demographics.

The health department began exploring this issue in 2002 by conducting a series of focus and discussion groups to collect and assess opinions about the recruitment and retention of nurses within the state. By combining these data with demographic, educational, professional and employment characteristics for Pennsylvania nursing professionals, the health department was able to assess deficiencies and provide guidance to health care employers across the state.

According to the health department's report, minorities are vastly underrepresented in the nursing population in Pennsylvania. African Americans make up almost 9 percent of Pennsylvania's population but account for only about 3 percent of the RNs in the state. The numbers are even lower for Hispanics, who make up 2.5 percent of Pennsylvanians but only .72 percent of the RN population.

The health department is now encouraging educators and employers "to develop strategies to increase the numbers of members of cultural, racial, and linguistic minorities who enter and graduate from nursing programs."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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