$2 million grant will assist underrepresented students in Bronson School of nursing

Fostering greater diversity in the nursing profession is vital, says Dr. Mary Ann Stark, professor of nursing. Bronson School of Nursing has received the resources to do just that with a four-year project to recruit, retain and graduate more underrepresented students into the nursing profession.

The project started with a $5,000 internal grant that went on to receive nearly $2 million in federal funds. The Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant, through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, will fund the Empowering Nursing Students for Success project. The program has been ongoing and the new funding will allow it to expand. 

Funding will be used to recruit students from underrepresented groups and those who are educationally and financially disadvantaged. Once enrolled, they will be paired with faculty mentors and student navigators to help guide them through the Bronson School of Nursing program.

Problems underrepresented students face make it much harder to make the transition to college and are mirrored in the state's nursing demographics, Stark says. Financial problems, having graduated from underperforming K-12 schools, and coming from different social and educational backgrounds than white students are among the problems before students.

Of the 14 scholars initially included in the program, all have been successful academically. Armed with the new grant funding, the program is poised for wider success. Almost half of the grant money goes directly to the scholar for scholarships or stipends. The rest goes to pay for mentoring and to hire student navigators.

Stark says it's important for the medical profession to mirror society as a whole in its ethnic makeup. There are large differences between ethnic groups in terms of mortality and morbidity, diseases that are more or less common and different cultural traditions and ways of communicating. In addition, a more diverse nursing population enriches the profession with different talents and outlooks. 

As of 2017, 83.2 percent of Michigan's nurses were white. The state population overall is 75.4 percent white, Stark says. Only 6.3 percent of nurses are black, compared with 14.2 percent in the general population.

The Latino nursing and general populations are even more skewed, Stark says. Latinos make up only 1.6 percent of nurses compared to 5 percent Latinos in the general population.

"We have a real mismatch between the racial and ethnic backgrounds of nurses compared to the people we serve in our state," Stark says. The program they have developed has been successful in addressing that.

Source: Western Michigan University