Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Promoting Nursing Workforce Diversity on an Urban Campus

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Promoting Nursing Workforce Diversity on an Urban Campus

Article excerpt

The Nursing Scholars Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston's (UMass) College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) promotes enrollment, retention, and post-graduation success for minority and economically disadvantaged nursing students. As discussed below, this is a federally funded HRSA Workforce Diversity grant. The program consists of many activities: peer group meetings, community-based cultural competency trainings, leadership education, program advisors, a community space, laptop computers, ESL classes, tutors, and scholarships or stipends for eligible students.

This article is intended to provide an overview of our methods and practices, how we incorporated student feedback into our model, and our unique approach to outsourcing evaluation (singled out by HRSA as a particular strength of our grant proposal), as well as our recommendations to others considering a similar model.


The Nursing Scholars Program exists to fill a documented need in both the medical and academic communities.

Minorities are underrepresented in the nursing profession. Despite the fact that minority groups comprise almost 33% of the U.S. population, only 12.3% of registered nurses represent racial or ethnic minority groups. (1) In nursing programs in Massachusetts there is a tremendous lack of minorities enrolled and graduating. In fact, "At Boston hospitals up to 95% of housekeeping staff and 80% of food services workers are minorities. But the number of registered nurses who are minorities is less than 10% in most institutions." (2) And even though CNHS has a much higher rate of minority enrollment, as well as a higher rate of minority graduates, than the rest of the state, its enrollment still does not adequately reflect the diversity of minorities in the local community.

To make matters worse, in 2005 Massachusetts had a shortfall of 4,820 nurses, or 7%. By 2010 this shortfall is projected to reach 12% and to continue growing. (3) This shortage is different from past nursing shortages, because the workforce is getting older, thereby shrinking the overall workforce as they retire. (4) At the same time, young people are choosing not to enter the nursing profession because they have better career options. For current nurses, there are a number of workplace problems including excessive workloads, inadequate staffing, and workplace safety issues. (5) All of these factors will contribute to a shortage of nurses in the Boston area for the foreseeable future.

Retention rates for minority students at CNHS lagged behind those for white students from 2000 to 2004, with rates for minorities hitting a low of 51% in 2001-2002. (6) In the past, NCLEX passing rates for whites overwhelmed the scores of all minorities with only 8% of whites failing the examination.

Faced with this community need--the documented nursing workforce shortage, under-representation of minorities in the nursing community, and lagging NCLEX passing and retention rates of minority students at UMass--we applied for and received funding from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) Bureau of Health Professions Nursing Workforce Diversity Program for two grants. The first was the Bringing the Best to Nursing (BBN) Program (20032006), and our current grant is the Nursing Scholars Program [NSP] (2007-2010).


We are now in the process of administering our second HRSA-funded Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant. Bringing the Best to Nursing ran from 2003 to 2006 and enrolled 114 students. To date, 50 BBN students have graduated, which is a 100% retention rate. Among the other documented successes of the BBN program are the "culture of community" noted by students as being essential to improving academic experience, retention and performance; the "advocacy model" of advising, where students appreciated faculty attention and assistance; and the Diversity Training Workshops, led by minority nurses. …

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