Exploring Diversity in Nursing Education: Research Findings

Article excerpt

Abstract: According to predictions of the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2000), the non-Hispanic White population will decrease to 52.8% by 2050 and to 49.6% by 2060. These changing demographics will have a trickle down effect on the population in all aspects of society. Because of future demographic changes in this country, it is important that schools of nursing address the issue of diversity in their curricula. This author surveys a purposeful sample of 13 schools of nursing chosen from the list of NLNAC-accredited schools which were accredited under the diversity edict. The findings of this study suggest that baccalaureate schools of nursing are making an effort to address the issue of diversity. It is not apparent whether the institutions' attention to diversity is a committed or cursory one.

Key Words: Cultural Diversity in Schools of Nursing, Diversity in Nursing Education, Research Findings, NLNAC Accredited Schools of Nursing and Diversity Edict

It is widely believed that the current racial, ethnic, and cultural composition of the United States population will undergo significant changes in the near future. By most accounts, this society has become increasingly diverse. Following the current demographic trends, it is predicted that sometime in the 21st century, Whites will no longer constitute the majority. According to predictions or the United States Bureau of the Census (2000), the non-Hispanic White population which now makes up approximately 69 percent of the population, will decrease to 52.8 percent by 2050 and 49.6 percent by 2060.

These changing demographics will have a trickle down effect on the population in all aspects of society, including health care clients and nursing school enrollees. According to the Healthy People 2010 initiative (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000), Blacks and other non-Whites are overrepresented in health problems, have higher mortality rates from disease, and have a shorter life expectancy than Whites. As a result, people in these groups currently make up a significant proportion of health care consumers. Although one of the goals of Healthy People 2010 (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) is to eliminate health disparities that occur by gender, race/ethnicity, and other variables, it still remains a fact that these disparities do exist. Unless major changes occur in these morbidity and mortality rates, as America's diversity increases, a larger percentage of health care consumers will be persons of color.

Along with the increasing diversity of health care consumers, it is reasonable to anticipate that health care providers and nursing school enrollees will become more diverse. Even though non-Whites are underrepresented in the nursing profession (Campbell & Davis, 1996; Delblanco, 2003; Greer, 1995; Morris & Wykle, 1994), the increasing population diversity means increasing diversity in all aspects of society regardless of whether groups are adequately represented or not.

Because of the current and future demographics of this country, it is important that schools of nursing address the issue of diversity in their curricula and overall programs. The issue of diversity has implications from two aspects in regards to nursing school programs: (1) the need to prepare professional nurses who are competent in providing culturally-specific care to culturally diverse health-care consumers; and (2) the need to respond to the educational needs of culturally or racially diverse students.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Leininger (1997) introduced the theory of transcultural nursing over 40 years ago and was instrumental in the establishment of the field of transcultural nursing in the 1960's (Leininger, 1996). Since that time discourse on culture has become increasingly more common in the nursing literature and other aspects of nursing. The literature emphasizes the two previously mentioned aspects of nursing school programs with regards to diversity. …