Nursing Programs for People of Color

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“Minority” can be defined as a group that differs from the majority of the population in terms of religion, culture, ethnic background, race, sexual orientation or physical ability. “Underrepresented minority” refers to groups whose presence in different areas is disproportionate when compared to overall population figures. The number of African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaskan Native students enrolled in nursing programs is significantly lower than the percent of the population they comprise. This is why it’s important for minority nursing students to understand what is out there for them.

What are the prospects for minority nursing programs and students?

The demand for diverse types of nursing students is at an all-time high. Hospitals and health care providers need nurses who can establish strong patient-client relationships with growing minority populations. These communities often have a high proportion of immigrant and first-generation members who may have limited English skills. Nurses from similar backgrounds can gain the trust of these individuals; other nurses may not be so aware of cultural beliefs and practices that can influence treatment methods. A diverse nurse workforce is a crucial component of effective community outreach efforts, making minority nursing programs more popular than ever before.

Why are nursing schools interested in recruiting minority students?

Minorities tend to have less access to health care and disproportionate rates of illness when compared to traditionally white areas. Consequently, nursing schools want to recruit individuals who are sensitive to cultural differences and who desire to practice holistic medicine in underrepresented populations.

In order to achieve these goals, however, nursing programs need higher numbers of minority applicants. There are over two million nurses in the United States but a study by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers found that minorities represent 19% of the RN workforce.

What is the status of affirmative action in colleges and universities?

In recent years, United States courts have handed down a series of contradictory judgments about affirmative action policies, which consider race as one of several factors during the admissions process. Some of these decisions have curtailed affirmative action in California, Washington, Texas and other states; others have affirmed that diverse classrooms are crucial to the education system and have upheld school policies.

Are more minority students enrolling in minority nursing programs?

The retention rate of minority nursing program students has been problematic due to numerous factors, including family duties and financial situations. Nursing schools are taking many steps to resolve the issue of retention rate:

  • In addition to creating greater academic and financial aid resources, several schools have established mentoring programs that match first and second-year students with advanced nursing students.
  • A diverse nursing school staff also helps minority students to feel more at ease; at this point, however, there are not enough minority doctoral candidates (DNPs) to fill the positions schools offer.
  • Revised curricula that focus on holistic approaches to patient care also encourage minority students to apply. These new programs tend to be more culturally sensitive, appreciating students who work easily with minority communities.
  • Even a guide that focuses specifically on nursing may not examine each individual department or specialty in depth.
  • Nursing schools are also increasing class accessibility for students who must balance education with work and family obligations. The number of online nursing programs continues to increase; in addition, schools are developing off-campus classes in locations near minority communities.

Are scholarships available for minority nursing students?

Individual private schools may set aside funds for minority students, and many nursing scholarship organizations also offer awards:

  • The Ethnic Minority Fellowship Program strives to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who work as nurses in the psychiatric/mental health fields. They offer annual stipends to pre-and-postdoctoral students.
  • The National Black Nurses Association offers several annual scholarships with award amounts that range from $500 to $2000. Eligible applicants must be members of the NBNA.
  • The National Association of Hispanic Nurses offers scholarships to nursing students who are members of NAHN.
  • Minority Nurse Magazine sponsors annual scholarships for minority students with outstanding academic records who have demonstrated personal commitment to health care professions. Minority Nurse also maintains a large database of scholarships for minority nurses that students can browse.
  • Indian Health Service offers scholarships to American Indian/Alaska Native students from federally or state recognized tribes who intend to serve native populations after completing school. These awards are open to undergraduate and graduate students from a number of health-related fields.

Are there any minority nursing student organizations?

Individual schools may have minority nurse student organizations in addition to larger minority student groups; contact each school for information. There are also national minority nursing organizations for professionals. Often, students can become members of these groups, which include:

Do nursing schools try to address the needs of diverse patients?

Many nursing programs have revised their curricula to train students about cultural diversity before they leave school. Often, new courses are designed to educate students about the unfamiliar cultural beliefs that they may encounter in minority populations. Minority nursing program students are encouraged to learn new languages in order to meet the needs of patients who speak limited English. Students are also exposed to the different risk factors and symptoms for various minorities, an increasingly-important practice that prepares nurses for the diverse communities in which they will practice.

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