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Minority undergrads get exposure to nursing careers

Jul. 26, 2018, 8:45 AM

Students, mentors and program coordinators involved with the Summer Professional Immersion in Nursing program include (front row, from left) Julia Steed, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, Ashley Brienza, Leoncia Gillespie, Jordan Nixon, Emily Brignola, Jamaria Southward and Chelsea Lauderdale, (back row, from left) Mariah Ramirez, Tia Kelman, Rayan Osman, Australia Say, Paige Lucas-Smith and Shaunna Parker, MSN, WHNP-BC. (photo by Dina Bahan)

Undergraduates primarily from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) considering careers in health care participated in two new programs launched at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing this summer.

In June, the Summer Professional Immersion in Nursing (SPIN) program provided eight undergraduate students from Fisk and Vanderbilt universities the opportunity to gain exposure to the nursing profession.

Later in June and July, six students from the Undergraduate Health Sciences Academy (UHSA) at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta came to Nashville for a VUSN/UHSA program that integrated learning and practice in a health care environment.

Both programs were offered at Vanderbilt for the first time this summer. They represent VUSN’s efforts to reach out to underrepresented students who may consider graduate nursing studies. None of the students are currently studying nursing at their home institutions; several students reported that they knew very little about careers in nursing and the scope of the profession before coming to Vanderbilt.

VUSN is the only nursing school represented among the nearly 25 health care organizations and medical schools providing summer research, internships and clinical shadowing opportunities with Morehouse’s UHSA.

“I spoke at Morehouse School of Medicine earlier this year and discovered a lot of students had no exposure to everything nurses can do. When offered the opportunity for VUSN to participate, I said yes immediately,” said VUSN Dean Linda Norman, DSN, the Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing. “These programs can increase much-needed diversity in nursing and help talented students learn of the wide range of opportunities open to them in advanced practice nursing.”

The UHSA program draws students from Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College, three HBCU in the Atlanta University Center.

The SPIN program was open to underrepresented minority undergraduate students who attend one of three universities/consortiums: Fisk University, Vanderbilt University or UHSA.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the School of Nursing collaborated to provide interactive observation experiences for the SPIN and UHSA participants.

During the first week of the SPIN program, students participated in activities and seminars that included discussion of the wide array of nursing jobs, guidance in applying to nursing schools, simulated nursing experiences and speakers relating what being a nurse meant to them.

For the remaining weeks, students rotated through units at VUMC and Vanderbilt-affiliated clinics to observe nurses in action.

The SPIN program managers spoke about the importance of having diversity in the nursing profession. “People like to identify with who is taking care of them,” said Julia Steed, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, assistant professor of Nursing. “Having a diverse nursing workforce would definitely enhance the quality of nursing care and position our profession to have a face that represents the patients they’re taking care of.”

Shaunna Parker, MSN, APRN, WHNP-C, instructor in Nursing, said that diverse experiences and views are valuable. “If everybody looks the same and offers the same perspective, you only bring ideas from a specific culture. But when you have a diverse nursing workforce, everyone brings something to the table,” she said.

The UHSA program brought together a student cohort for classes, simulation sessions and clinical observation experiences with preceptors in VUSN’s nurse-run clinics such as the West End Women’s Health Center, Clinic at Mercury Courts and the Metro Nashville Public School employee health center in downtown Nashville. Class topics included ethics, adverse childhood experiences, social determinants of health, patient advocacy, health policy and evidence-based practice and research.

The UHSA students also toured some of Nashville’s disadvantaged neighborhoods and participated in activities such as trying to create a healthy meal on a low-income budget and with limited healthy food options.

At program’s end, each student completed and presented a capstone project targeted toward an area of improving health care delivery.

Instructor in Nursing Tamika Hudson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, coordinates the UHSA program for Vanderbilt. She said it aims to increase awareness of the nursing discipline and increase the students’ confidence in a health care setting.

“I’m hoping that they gain a more comprehensive understanding about what they can accomplish in health care and tap into the innate qualities that they possess,” she said. “They’re just an absolute delight to work with.”

The SPIN program was made possible by the Promise of Nursing for Tennessee Nursing School Grant program administered by the Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association.

Funding for the grant program was contributed by several hospitals and health care agencies in the Tennessee area, by Johnson & Johnson, and by national companies with an interest in supporting nursing education. The funds were raised at a gala fundraising event sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

UHSA is a nationwide program created and administered by Morehouse School of Medicine.

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