Diversifying the nursing profession is goal of $1.8M UMass Dartmouth initiative

College of Nursing receives federal HRSA grant to recruit and train nurses in SouthCoast region; More than $500K will be used for need-based aid

Three nursing students standing next to patient bed

The UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to diversify the nursing workforce in the region over the next four years. More than $500,000 will be used for need-based aid for area students who want to pursue nursing as a profession.

The UMass Dartmouth team, led by Dr. Barbara Weatherford, will be joined by colleagues from Bristol Community College (BCC) as they study admission practices at each campus and identify and recruit a qualified applicant pool that mirrors the demography of the region. BCC has nursing programs in Fall River and New Bedford.

“This grant award recognizes a critical challenge in the community and the ability of UMass Dartmouth, as a tier one public research university, to confront that challenge through research, teaching, and engagement,” UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson said. “This effort to diversify the nursing workforce in the region, which will improve health care for all, will be strengthened by the collaboration with our colleagues at Bristol Community College.”

“The HRSA grant is another example of how Massachusetts community colleges, state universities, and UMass work together and take leadership on key economic and education issues. Bristol Community College and UMass Dartmouth recognize the importance of building a diverse workforce in this region and developing stronger systems to enable student success,” said Bristol Community College President Laura L. Douglas.

This project focuses on New Bedford due to the city’s changing demographics, now estimated at 16.7 percent Hispanic and 6.4 percent Black/African American (US Census, 2015 est.). The goal is to bring nursing enrollment in line with these demographic trends by promoting nursing as a career and supporting admitted students throughout their college career so they graduate on time and fully prepared to excel at regional hospitals and other health care organizations.

“The need exists for a more diverse workforce to address the health needs of the community,” said Dr. Weatherford. “Building a health care workforce that reflects the diversity of the community will strengthen the delivery of health care across the region, and help the region retain talent. We also anticipate learning from our students about changing the world, one nurse at a time.”

One major objective of the project is to develop holistic admissions at both campuses, a strategy used in medical and dental schools to ensure that talented students from diverse backgrounds are identified, recruited and supported.

The initiative will build upon ongoing outreach to middle and high school students through the university’s Upward Bound program.

The partnership with BCC and UMass Dartmouth includes long-standing articulation agreements supporting educational advancement for nurses through an online RN/BS program and on to Master’s, Doctor of Nursing Practice and PhD education.

This is the second nursing workforce diversity program that the university has undertaken with the support of HRSA. The existing UMass Dartmouth Diversity Nursing Scholars (DNS) program works with diverse and disadvantaged nursing students to develop an effective academic success plan and engage students in professional activities to develop social capital in the profession.

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