September 17, 1999

Minority enrollment doubles at Nursing School

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School of Nursing students (from left) TaCharra Woodard, Thomas Martin and Sandy Riveria were on hand at at recent luncheon held in honor of the incoming class of minority students.

Minority enrollment doubles at Nursing School

The School of Nursing is an example that hard work pays off.

Since implementing a new strategy to attract more minorities to its programs, the school saw a definite improvement — minority enrollment jumped from 12 students in 1998 to 30 in 1999.

"We are very excited about the number of new minority students," said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Nursing. "One of the things that is so important in advance practice nursing is ensuring that the caregivers are changing along with society's demographics.

"It is critical to have persons of color in advanced levels of nursing," Conway-Welch said during a luncheon held in honor of the incoming class of minority students. "As the demographics change we must all be prepared to serve our patients so as to provide the best health care possible."

VUSN has traditionally recruited from historically black colleges but made a decision to alter that plan recently. Rolanda Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of Nursing, began attending national conferences and playing a more active role in promoting minority visibility at the school in hopes of attracting more minority students.

"As the demographics change and more minorities are in higher positions in health care, perhaps the dynamics of the discussions will change," Johnson said. "It will be very important in the health care industry that not just minorities, but all health care professionals be able to recognize the various cultural and individual differences of the patient population.

"It will not be the same as it is today and we must be prepared to meet those needs."

Johnson said that historically there has been a disproportionate number of minority nurses in health care. Moreover, as one climbs the academic scale, the numbers decrease dramatically.

It is VUSN's hope that by increasing the number of students at the entry level, minorities will begin to be better represented on all levels of nursing and in the health care industry. The total number of new nursing students for the '99 school year was 243, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.