NCIN Scholars Plan Online Network to Build Community and Promote Collaboration

Opportunities to network, mentor and get support from one’s peers are important in any profession, and nursing is no exception. This year, to ensure and increase those opportunities, a group of New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholars and alumni came together to develop a Scholars Network, a community where scholars can share information, collaborate and support each other while they are in school, and as they enter the nursing workforce after graduation.

The steering committee of 12 current and former scholars met in person at NCIN’s Fifth Annual Summit in October to develop a framework and vision for the community and to share those with the NCIN community.

Blake K. Smith, BSN, RN, a graduate of Nebraska Methodist College, had the idea for the Network and proposed his plan to NCIN.


"We get all of this funding, all of these development skills, and [we have] no way to execute and collaborate with the others who are receiving this as well,” Smith said. “We come from such diverse backgrounds and have such unique skills to bring to the table. Why aren’t we utilizing all of our uniqueness to bring ourselves together to have one voice?”

The mission of the Scholars Network is, “to combine and engage the diverse skills, backgrounds, and education of all NCIN scholars to benefit nursing students, nurses, and most especially, to serve our culturally diverse patient population.” 

Cattleya May, RN, a student in Boston College’s accelerated MSN program and member of the Scholars Network steering committee, hopes the Network will provide an opportunity for alumni to give back to current scholars.

“[I’d like to] reach out and possibly mentor other scholars, or share what experiences [I’ve had] in this type of accelerated program.”

Chris Fogarty, also a member of the steering committee, wants Network members to be able to utilise their diverse skills.

"I think the biggest advantage we’re going to have is unifying a diverse group of individuals with experience outside the [nursing] workforce… that can put applicable, real-life solutions to health care problems,” said Fogarty.

"We take customer service, law, chemistry, all these different industries and say okay, those all fit somewhere in the nursing puzzle… Because at the end of the day… we can collaborate with those diverse skills and experiences to help drive the nursing profession to ultimately [improve] patient health and the health of all Americans.” 

In collaboration with the NCIN program office, the scholars’ main responsibility will be maintaining and growing the Network. The steering committee will work closely with NCIN to fully develop and implement the Network, acting as consultants to assist with final decisions regarding the Network’s goals and activities.

Among their plans for activities are:
an online forum for scholars to share information and discuss issues; a mobile phone application, so that the Network can be accessed on smartphones; producing online videos for the Network; podcasts and live question-and-answer sessions; a forum for scholars to share their biographies and the reasons they decided to pursue nursing careers; seminars or video web conferences; and more.

“We are extremely excited that our scholars have taken the initiative to create this Network,” said Vernell DeWitty, PhD, RN, deputy program director of NCIN. “It is our policy to continually work to improve and enhance the NCIN program, and frequently, ideas for those improvements and enhancements come from our grantees and their scholars. We believe that a Scholars Network will help build a sense of community among our scholars, enhance their experience as scholars and nursing students, strengthen the NCIN program, and ultimately, advance nursing.”

With guidance from faculty advisors, NCIN program liasons
Aara Amidi- Nouri, PhD, RN and Susan Ward, PhD, RN, the Network will also:
increase NCIN scholars’ awareness of the resources available to them through the program; provide opportunities for face-to-face communication between scholars; offer a place for announcing and starting scholar initiatives; and provide a forum for sharing the ways that the experiences and skills scholars bring with them to nursing are helping them in their careers.

The steering committee plans to launch the Network online in the spring of 2013.

Click here to view the Network's presentation at NCINs 5th Annual Summit.