Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Educating Nurses in Rhode Island: A Lot of Diversity in a Little Place

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Educating Nurses in Rhode Island: A Lot of Diversity in a Little Place

Article excerpt

Abstract: Faculty at a baccalaureate nursing program ai a state college discuss a multifaceted approach to meeting the needs of a very diverse student population. These students reflect the changing demographics of the state and their education contributes to providing a racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse nursing workforce. The program addresses multiple issues which may impede academic performance. These measures have enhanced and promoted graduates' success on NCLEX-RN. Creative and varied strategies are presented and their implementation and evaluation described.

Key Words: Rhode Island, Nursing Education, Diversity, Academic Performance

The nursing profession is committed to promoting the health of all people. Today this commitment presents new challenges. The defining characteristics of the populations we serve are rapidly changing. Practicing nurses are being called upon to meet the health care needs of persons of various socioeconomic, cultural, and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Nurses must be prepared to understand and communicate with an increasingly diverse population. Culturally competent care has become a standard of practice. Concurrent with changing demographics, specific sub-groups of the population are experiencing remarkably different states of health. In the United States these differences have provoked national concern. Eliminating health disparities is identified as a national priority for change in Healthy People 2010 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).

In order to meet future challenges, our profession needs to be more representative of the society as a whole. Geolot (2000) identified increasing the diversity and cultural competence in the nursing workforce as a strategic goal of the Division of Nursing of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Making the profession more representative requires increasing the diversity of nursing students. Recruiting and educating students of different backgrounds will improve the ability of the profession to relate to the various populations nursing serves.

Not too many years ago, colleges and universities were urged to promote diversity in their student population. At the dawn of the 21st century, changing demographics in the country's citizenry more or less ensures diversification, especially in public institutions. Promoting achievement and success in academics for this changing student body is a reality that administration and faculty must address.

The specific issues that have caused nursing educators, like us, to take notice are increased attrition and high rate of failure on the RN Licensure Examination. It is well documented that students who have English as a second language have a higher than average chance of failing the exam. (Femea, Gaines, Braithwaite, Abdur-Rahman, 1994; Klisch, 1994; Phillips & Hartley, 1990). Many nursing programs also report that ESL students have a higher attrition rate than students with English as a first language (Memmer & Worth, 1991). Increasing awareness of the issues demands a response.


The nursing program at Rhode Island College is committed to addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse student body. While this may be experienced as a unique phenomenon today, more likely it is predictive of a trend for schools in many urban areas throughout the country and one that is likely to continue. At Rhode Island College diversity can be seen in a full sense. In a college-wide survey, minority students make up 13.2% of the student body. Students who speak English as a second language (ESL) comprise 17%. The picture of diversity is complex. It includes a large group of students from other countries who have been educated in English and recently emigrated (e.g., from African nations and Caribbean Islands). Children of Cape Verdean Portuguese immigrants, although born and educated in this country, may have learned Portuguese as their first language. …

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