Meeting the Challenge: Education Ethnic Minority Nursing Students - a Continuing Role

By Brathwaite, Dollie | ABNF Journal, March/April 1999 | Go to article overview

Meeting the Challenge: Education Ethnic Minority Nursing Students - a Continuing Role


Brathwaite, Dollie, ABNF Journal


Abstract: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) traditionally have educated large numbers of Black nurses. HBCU programs must not lose the vision from the past in attempts to demonstrate diversity in the future. The need for HBCU's as providers of Black nurses necessitate an even larger and viable role in changing health care environments. The roles must be designed to increase retention, reduce barriers, and generate outcomes for HBCU's to remain in the forefront of educating nurse leaders for tomorrow.

Key Words: Black Nurses, Diversity, Outcomes, Future Roles, HBCU

The need for diversity among health care professionals is being debated within the nursing profession. Dr. Hines (1996) historical perspective indicated that in 1873 the first three schools of nursing opened in the United States. By the end of the century, more than 400 nursing schools had been established in the nation. Almost without exception they declined to admit African American students. She further noted that in 1996, 23 historically black colleges and universities in the United States offered bachelors degree programs in nursing. These 23 schools had a combined enrollment of more than 5,000 students. According to the National League for Nursing 1996 Nursing Data Review, there were 1,501 basic registered nursing programs and 1,422 schools of nursing in 1994. These programs consisted of 509 baccalaureate programs, 868 associate degree programs and 124 diploma programs. The data further indicated that from 1993-1994, the 509 baccalaureate nursing programs graduated 28,912 students, unfortunately, only 1,912 or less than seven percent, were African American. Today, as in the past, HBCU's are educating the majority of African American nurses.

Bessent (1994), noted in a recent National League for Nursing report, " over the last five years the picture for minority graduation from nursing programs has been embarrassing. Graduations of minority students from all programs declined during this period from 14 percent to 12.7 percent. In 1993, African American students accounted for 6.8 percent and Hispanic students 2.6 percent of the graduations from all generic nursing programs" (p.7).

Majority nursing education programs are not doing a good job of educating all segments of the society. Although they are fewer in number, HBCU's continue to educate African American nurses.

Dr. Rhetaugh Dumas (1998), President of the National League for Nursing stated there are mounting pressures for reforms in health professions education and a need to accelerate progress in achieving a higher level of diversity among these professionals. The nursing profession needs to respond positively to the call for greater numbers of ethnically diverse professionals within its ranks. An overriding concern in nursing education is there is a strong trend to call for diversity, while the status quo appears to be maintained among majority educational institutions. Today, there continues to be an absence of African American students in nursing programs. This is not a new phenomenon. What can be done to increase the numbers of ethically diverse nurses? Historically, the HBCU's have been leaders in the education of African American nurses. These institutions must continue to educate participants who would not otherwise become members of the profession.

The increasing numbers of students from other diverse cultural groups enrolling in institutions that traditionally admitted predominately African American students is a concern. Rodney (1995) noted that:

Although the exact number of nursing students involved in this education struggle is not known, the lawyer for the plaintiff in a desegregation case in this state argued that there is a severe nursing crisis in the state of Mississippi which is exacerbated by the fact that Black nursing schools are not graduating Black nurses. This argument is based on the testimony of the college president and quoted by the lawyer that since 1979, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities had no more than 35 percent African American nursing students and this years (1994) graduating class is 93 percent White. …

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