The educational inequities suffered by many minority students before entering rigorous nursing programs has created a distinctive learning gap that can contribute to academic failure. As the outreach coordinator for multicultural student development at Abington Memorial Hospital Dixon School of Nursing, I am challenged daily with assisting our diverse and at-risk student population in their journey to become RNs. In this unique and multifaceted role, I act as recruiter, academic adviser, educator, and mentor.
As an academic adviser at the Dixon School of Nursing, I assist students with academic and life organization. I have designed formal lectures on how to develop study skills, test-taking techniques, and cultural competence. With my Academic Action Plan tool, I work with nursing school applicants to set realistic goals based on their individual family commitments, work obligations, and finances. The plan maps out a completion schedule for the prerequisite courses and helps the students prepare for the preadmission nursing test by improving math, reading comprehension, verbal, and fundamental science skills. The tool has helped many applicants secure a place at Dixon School of Nursing.
I helped establish the Bridge to Academic Summer Enrichment Success (BASES) program to help at-risk nursing students identified through preadmission standardized testing. In March 2006, Stephanie Sanders, RN, MBA, clinical instructor, and I applied for an Innovator’s Circle Grant from the Abington Memorial Hospital Foundation to fund BASES.
The five-day voluntary program provided classes to students with identified academic deficits, and was led by a reading, math, and study skills specialist. The program focused on building skills in math, textbook reading, academic organization, and information technology. This nurse-led research project has benefited 12 students at the Dixon School of Nursing. Funding for BASES was discontinued in June.
Seeking Out Diversity
In an effort to increase the diversity of our school’s applicants, I visit long-term care facilities throughout the Philadelphia area to recruit LPNs and CNAs interested in becoming RNs. I attend an annual recruitment event “The Black Male Symposium,” sponsored by Arcadia University in Philadelphia, to reach out to black men interested in nursing.
Abington Memorial provides support of its diverse faculty and staff by funding membership in the National Black Nurses Association and Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Black Nurses Association. I, in turn, encourage students to join the local chapter to learn the value of professional membership, networking, and volunteerism. The SEPA group embraces its student members by providing scholarships and mentorship avenues to promote academic growth.
“Two years ago, I never thought I’d be where I am today,” says Shireeta Benjamin, who is in her senior year at Dixon. “I was struggling academically because I was going to school full time, working two full-time jobs, and taking care of my daughter.” In 2008, Benjamin won academic scholarships from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Black Nurses Association and the National Black Nurses Association.
By establishing the position of outreach coordinator for multicultural student development, the Dixon School of Nursing has become an innovator in nursing education. The most current data shows 17.4% (20.2% including men) of the 239 students enrolled come from diverse backgrounds.
My goal is to improve the profession of nursing and curb healthcare disparities by preparing culturally diverse nurses. This role has afforded me the opportunity to diversify the profession of nursing, one student at a time.