Duke University School of Nursing Transitions to 21st Century Health Care Practices

Understanding that health care practices need to cater to a 21st century environment, the Duke University School of Nursing is seven years into the mission: building a nursing workforce that corresponds to the ever-changing demographic in this country. Taking notice of Duke’s desire to create a diversified nursing field, the New Careers in Nursing program rewarded the school, along with 57 others, in its first round of scholarship funding.

After receiving the grants, the Duke University School of Nursing’s accelerated program has used the funding to advance the matriculation of underrepresented groups in nursing.  This past year, Duke was able to increase its matriculation pool by ten percent.  The Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education at Duke, Dr. Michael Relf was involved in last year’s New Careers in Nursing scholarship selection, a process which enabled seven additional students to join the nursing program- all of whom have gone on to exceed expectations and excel in the four-semester program at Duke.  With a changing demography in the United States, Dr. Relf believes that a diverse and unique nursing workforce will provide the best science-based care around our nation.

One of the seven scholarship recipients at Duke, Maggie Winfall describes her opportunity with the program as a “blessing.”  A thirty two year-old African American mother of two, Winfall left medical school after three years and a self realization that it wasn’t suited for her.  But her growing interest in the health field remained strong.  A nurturing spirit and hands-on attitude were characteristics she believed would equip her well for the nursing profession- a career she was attracted to because of the endless opportunities and direct patient care.

A peer of Winfall’s and another New Careers in Nursing scholar, Ceana Dockery applied to the program in pursuit of fueling the passion to work with pre-natal and pediatric populations.  At thirty-three, Dockery wants to take her teaching expertise to the next level, aspiring to impact child health globally.  The financial demands of earning a graduate degree would have made it nearly impossible for Dockery to attend Duke, however, with the New Careers in Nursing funding through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, she not only engages in an accelerated study program, but has the unique opportunity to learn and service abroad, like an upcoming trip to Tanzania doing post-natal care and HIV/AIDS clinical work.

Dockery and Winfall swim in the small pool of applicants who were accepted into Duke’s accelerated nursing program.

According to Dr. Relf, there were 150 applicants with the qualified GPA/GRE metrics but that number far exceeded the school’s capacity.  He points out that amidst the nursing shortage, it doesn’t seem right to turn away highly qualified applicants that are needed in the workforce.  With grantee programs like the New Careers in Nursing however, Dr. Relf believes that Duke will be able to enroll more highly qualified students and further solidify their vision to engage underrepresented groups in nursing.

As a former teacher of Appalachian children, Dockery counsels, “Those considering a career in nursing should never give up - they should be sure they are passionate about it because it takes effort and energy but is truly rewarding.”