The connection between hospital patient outcomes and nurse staffing has been well documented in health care research, and experts believe a workforce which better reflects the population it serves can help reduce health care disparities.
In Georgia, people of color are underrepresented in the nursing workforce. The percentage of nursing school graduates who are Black or Hispanic is lower than the percentage of the general population.
Kenya Beard, associate provost for social mission and academic excellence at Chamberlain University, has studied the issue of improving diversity in the nursing profession.
“Diversity among health professionals is associated with improved access to care, and the two overarching issues is access and quality,” Beard explained. “Greater patient choice and satisfaction when we have a diverse workforce; it’s better patient-clinician communication.”
Beard argued improving diversity in the profession starts with a more inclusive learning environment. She explained when students see themselves represented among the faculty, they realize a nursing degree is something they can achieve as well.
Dr. Jeannine Blackman, nurse unit manager at Wellstar Health System ins Douglasville, said her mother was her inspiration to become a nurse. However, she credits Chamberlain for equipping her with the tools to start off her careers as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
Decades later, she has been able to help mentor Chamberlain students and applauds the program for promoting and encouraging diversity.
“When I mean about diversity, I don’t just mean race, I mean socioeconomic status,” Blackman emphasized. “You have those that were uninsured, underinsured, homeless, chronically homeless for over 20-something years with mental health.”
Beard added with culturally responsive teaching, nursing educators strengthen students’ ability to recognize and respond in inclusive ways to diverse perspectives.
“When these students graduate, they are better positioned to have a conversation with patients and their colleagues,” Beard stressed. “In a way that shows cultural humility and a greater degree of understanding the difficulties of navigating health care and achieving your best level of health.”
Chamberlain University, with a location in Atlanta, has what’s called a Social Determinants of Learning model. Beard said it addresses disparities and expands opportunities by focusing on barriers to student success, including economic, housing and transportation insecurity, and psychosocial health.
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This story was written by Trimmel Gomes, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.