Common Experiences of African American Nursing Students: An Integrative Review

By White, Barbara J.; Fulton, Janet S. | Nursing Education Perspectives, May-June 2015 | Go to article overview

Common Experiences of African American Nursing Students: An Integrative Review


White, Barbara J., Fulton, Janet S., Nursing Education Perspectives


Abstract

AIM This integrative review synthesized research about Black nursing students' experiences in primarily White nursing programs.

BACKGROUND Provider diversity contributes to improved health outcomes for minorities. Black nursing students have higher attrition compared to White students. Minority student experiences in nursing school can contribute to poor academic performance.

METHOD An integrative review examined data-based literature from nursing, education, and sociology. findings Three common experiences were identified among African American nursing students: struggling with isolation, the importance of faculty, and the need for academic and interpersonal support.

CONCLUSION While little is known about the experience of Black students in predominately White nursing programs, evidence suggests that these students have unique needs for both academic and interpersonal support. To increase diversity of providers in the nursing profession, research is needed to identify opportunities to support Black students attending predominately White nursing programs.

KEY WORDS

African American Nursing Students Nursing Student Retention--Diversity Nursing Education

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African American people are underrepresented as registered nurses (RNs) in the United States. In the 2010 US census, 12.4 percent of the population identified as African American (Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011), while in 2012, only 6.0 percent of RNs identified as African American (Budden, Zhong, Moulton, & Cimiotti, 2013). As there is a relationship between the care received by minority populations and the cultural competence of the care providers, there is a need for greater diversity among nurses (Sullivan, 2004).

Despite much progress over the past 20 years, African American students in nursing are less represented than in college overall. African American students now comprise 15 percent of all college students (US Department of Education, 2012) but only 12.9 percent of nursing students (National League for Nursing [NLN], 2012). More worrisome, the enrollment percentage has declined since 2003 when it was 14.5 percent (NLN). African American nursing students also have the lowest graduation rate of all ethnic and racial groups (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013).

For reasons that are not entirely clear, the nursing profession is not keeping up with the racial demographics of the United States (Carthon, Nguyen, Chittams, Park, & Guevara, 2014). Without further study and new strategies, nursing is likely to remain poorly diversified compared to the population it serves. The purpose of this integrative review is to summarize the experiences of Black nursing students in programs serving primarily White students for evidence contributing to African American student success.

BACKGROUND

History of African American Nurses

African Americans have a rich tradition of providing nursing care to those in need. In Africa, tribal medicine used roots, minerals, and wild plants to treat illness (Davis, 1999). Tribal practices persisted when Africans were forced into slavery, and "healers" were used by slave owners to provide health care to people working on plantations (Davis). Several African American nurses served in the Civil War and are noted in American history, including abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who freed many slaves through the Underground Railroad (Carnegie, 1995; Hine, 1982).

Post-Civil War, when the first professional nursing programs opened around the United States, admission quotas limited enrollment of African American people into nursing programs (Carnegie, 1995). The professionalization of nursing was led and formed by White nurse leaders (Hine, 1989). Most southern states denied African American nurses access to the registration exam or administered a separate exam, which marked African American nurses as inferior (Hine, 1989). …

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