by Marissa Matton '14, MA '16
Dealing with the healthcare system, whether it is in a medical office, hospital or emergency room, can be a daunting experience for anyone. But language and cultural differences can make seeking medical attention even more difficult. The College of Nursing has initiated a new program to recruit a more diverse population to become nurses, and to provide more culturally sensitive care to patients, and to address service challenges in the medical field.
The Diversity Nursing Scholars (DNS) Program*, funded by a federal nursing workforce diversity grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), has several components. One aspect provides selected first-year UMassD nursing students with additional academic, financial, and social support to help them successfully transition from high school into the highly demanding nursing curriculum.
"We wanted to increase the diversity of our entering class and the number of diverse students successfully completing of the program," said Professor Barbara Weatherford, the DNS program director. She stressed that persistence rates—the percentage of students who return for another year of education—are an important sign of success.
Creating a pipeline of future nursing students
In order to create a pipeline of future nursing students, DNS also reaches out to middle and high school students in the region, and works with adults who demonstrate an interest in becoming nurses.
Workshops at local schools teach students about pursuing a degree in nursing, and students come to campus for tours and activities. The program has been so successful that Weatherford recently received notification of having won another HRSA award for more than $450,000.
"We facilitate a summer school-to-career internship opportunity for Upward Bound high school students interested in nursing," Program Manager Shelby Shaw said. "They participate in summer coursework on campus while shadowing nurses at St. Luke's hospital two days a week."
Through partnerships with area organizations and businesses, including St. Luke's Hospital and LifeWorks, DNS works with employees interested in nursing to help them achieve their career aspirations.
DNS has also partnered with Bristol Community College (BCC) to help students complete the prerequisite courses necessary to enter BCC's nursing program. Upon completion of the BCC program, students can receive credit for all of their courses and continue their education with UMassD's online RN-BS degree program.
DNS ambassador program
At the end of her first year in the DNS program at UMass Dartmouth, Danielle Bostick '19 helped create the DNS ambassador program. The student ambassadors plan, host, and promote programs and events to benefit potential nursing students.
"After immersing myself in the DNS program, I like to think that I've become a leader. I've become extremely involved in other clubs and events on campus as well," Danielle said. "The DNS program has helped me build the confidence I need to be a self-sufficient student and, hopefully, a great nurse one day."
Danielle has grown to see herself as a role model through her involvement in the DNS program. She first recognized it when students from New Bedford High School attended a workshop the ambassadors organized.
"What really stood out was how the students looked up to us. By the end of the day, they were comfortable asking us questions, and many of them wanted to come to UMass Dartmouth for our nursing program," she said.
The College of Nursing believes these initiatives will have a significant impact on the local community and beyond. The goal is to have nurses with a greater understanding of different cultures, races, and socio-economic backgrounds to enhance medical access.
"Research has linked health inequities to the lack of diversity and cultural competence of the healthcare workforce," Shaw said. "UMass Dartmouth has an obligation to the public to produce a culturally competent, diverse workforce of future nurses."
* This project is supported by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number D19HP28490.