UA College of Nursing Helps to Increase Diversity in Workforce

TUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Arizona College of Nursing kicked off the 2012 spring semester and held its Nursing Workforce Diversity scholarship group meeting. The group consists of selected undergraduate students from diverse cultures, including underserved and underrepresented populations.
The program, which pairs current UA College of Nursing student mentors and pre-nursing mentees together, is part of a Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services (HRSA) statewide grant written by the UA College of Nursing’s Associate Dean Sally Reel, PhD, RN, FNP, BC, FAAN, FAANP titled, “Increasing Nursing Workforce Diversity in Arizona.” The grant is nearing the end of its three-year funded period and has proven to be highly successful in helping students achieve admission to, and graduate from, the UA College of Nursing. The mentors provide training, coaching and mentoring to their mentees. During these training sessions the student mentor provides support on the successful application process, study skills and strategies, resources, and time and stress management – all of which are needed to be accepted and successful in nursing school.
The students are selected to participate after a competitive application process and receive stipends and scholarships based on their level of financial need. The program seeks to remove barriers and help minority and financially challenged students be successful and graduate from the UA Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Having a diverse nursing workforce is essential for effective patient care and to communicate and understand the needs of patients of various backgrounds. “While we are making inroads within the discipline of nursing, lack of diversity is related to less than ideal outcomes among our patients,” Dr. Reel said.
In Southern Arizona, the demand is even greater. Minorities in the region have a higher mortality and cancer rate when compared to non-minorities. Further, American Indians in Arizona have the highest rate of diabetes. As reported by the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, nurses make up approximately 80 percent of the health-care workforce, yet Hispanic nurses comprise only 5 percent of the total. Sue Habkirk, PhD, UA College of Nursing instructional specialist and grant mentoring coordinator, said, “We must increase the success of our diverse students entering and graduating from the College of Nursing. It is paramount that we close the gap in the workforce.”
The workforce diversity program will continue through June, when the current HRSA grant will end. HRSA does not have a grant program set for the upcoming 2012-2013 fiscal year but plans to resume in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The UA College of Nursing will actively compete for those funds as they become available. When the break in funding occurs, there is a possibility that $160,000 in scholarships and student financial support will be lost.

Faculty at the University of Arizona College of Nursing envision, engage and innovate in education, research and practice to help people of all ages optimize health in the context of major life transitions, illnesses, injuries, symptoms and disabilities. Established in 1957, the college ranks among the top nursing programs in the United States. For more information about the college, please visit its website,