NCIN Grantees Leading Cultural Shifts

Increasing diversity is a major goal of the New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) program and one of the key strategies to eliminate health disparities. Since our inception in 2008, NCIN has worked with grantees to strengthen the recruitment of underrepresented nursing students by providing toolkits, webinars, best practices and informational sessions that focus on  diversity and recruitment. Grantees have had tremendous success recruiting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in nursing, however the greatest success that we’ve seen in the past five years are the shifts in both organizational culture and diversity at grantee schools.

A 2012 evaluation conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS) to assess the impact of the RWJF NCIN scholarships revealed noteworthy trends in cultural change at grantee institutions. According to the ETS report, “increased diversity was the most commonly-cited change in culture and impact of the RWJF scholarship program.” Colleges and schools of nursing reported that after receiving NCIN grants and support, not only were they recruiting and enrolling more students from groups traditionally underrepresented in nursing (including men), but had also made changes that contributed to more  inclusive learning environments for individuals from those groups. Changes that have been reported by grantees include:

• an increase in the number of student organizations focused on diversity;
• a greater range of perspectives provided in classroom discussions;
• reviews of curricula to incorporate more diverse perspectives;
• new and increased support services for students;
• diversity training for faculty; and
• new administrative positions and offices focused on diversity

The University of Missouri, Sinclair School of Nursing (SSON), a four-time NCIN grantee, has improved its diversity practices and made significant changes to its school’s organizational culture.

Sherri Ulbrich, PHD, RN, CCRN, assistant clinical professor and NCIN program liaison at SSON says the school of nursing is heavily involved in developing diversity practices.

“Our nursing school has a great interest in developing diversity because we believe that we need to have more nurses that look and have similar value systems to our population. Patients need to identify with their caregivers.”

SSON’s efforts have included hiring a full-time diversity recruitment retention specialist who also is charged with advising students who are not admitted to the school of nursing to find and study humanistic sciences that align with their career goals. SSON’s diversity recruitment retention specialist, a retired serviceman, and a graduate of the accelerated nursing program, has been a valuable source to the school of nursing.

“Part of SSON’s mission is to not only improve the diversity of the student body, but the faculty and staff as well,” said Ulbrich.

SSON has also been successful in encouraging attendance to the MizzouDiversity Summit, a two-day event focused on increasing cultural competence and sensitivity toward underrepresented individuals.

Twenty-eight percent of South Carolina’s population is African-American, (the largest minority group in the state) but only 11 percent of the state’s registered nurse workforce is African-American . Latinos comprise  five percent of the state’s population but less than one percent of the registered nurse workforce.  In response to these statistics, the Medical University of South Carolina, (MUSC) a five-time NCIN grantee, developed a unique recruiting plan to work toward having their nursing student population reflect the state’s demographics.

Nancy Duffy, DNP, RN, CEN,CNE, MUSC director of undergraduate programs and NCIN program liaison, and her colleagues asked scholars to reach out to their communities and identify individuals interested in careers in health care and invite them to the college to visit the nursing school facilities. Inviting interested potential students to spend a day visiting simulation labs and learning about the nursing profession has helped MUSC recruit more diverse scholars in the last year.   
“Scholars are just reaching into their community to do this. I can’t do this all alone and so far students have embraced the idea and identified potential applicants for us,” said Duffy.     
Both Duffy and Ulbrich agree that the NCIN Recruiting Toolkit has been an invaluable resource in helping with diversity recruitment and changing the culture at their institutions.

“We have of blown up our plan in how we approach diversity,” Duffy says, “diversity has taken a strategic front and center focus in our college. We realized that several concepts were present in all programs but a unified, integrated approach was necessary. We revised the philosophy and mission to emphasize health equity and cultural effectiveness as the underpinnings for each program of study.  We are now enhancing courses across the college to strengthen cohesiveness  and  attention to these concepts.”

It is this understanding of the importance of cultural competence and promoting equity, that will lead to significant culture change and increase recruitment and retention of diverse students.

Paul Gorski, PhD, associate professor at George Mason University and a member of the NCIN National Advisory Committee, presented a webinar for NCIN grantees on effective and sustainable diversity initiatives in higher education. His key takeaway message is, “diversity without equity is never sustainable.” Institutions that do the best job of achieving diversity have leaders who recognize that achieving equity is the best strategy for improving retention and for ensuring that scholars have the best possible learning experience.