OHSU nursing school receives $1.05 million federal grant to improve student diversity

08/06/13  Portland, Ore.

By Lee Lewis-Husk

Getting more diverse students into nursing school and supporting them during their educational program is the goal of a $1.05 million grant to the School of Nursing at the Oregon Health & Science University.

Awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the funding began July 1, 2013 and runs for three years.

“We’re working with students who may not have the opportunity to attend nursing school without extra OHSU SON Studentssupport,” says Peggy Wros, Ph.D., R.N., principal investigator and the nursing school’s associate dean for student affairs and diversity. “Significant health disparities can be addressed by health care professionals who are members of the same ethnic or racial community.”

Oregon is in step with a national initiative to diversify the nursing workforce, Wros says. In the U.S., people of color represent 37 percent of the population but only 17 percent of registered nurses. “Many of us believe that getting more underrepresented minorities into health professions will improve the overall health of minority groups,” she says.

Susan Bakewell-Sachs, dean of the nursing school, says the funding will enhance ongoing efforts in the nursing school in a priority area and create a tested model that she hopes can be replicated in other places. “I am proud that the school has been awarded this grant, and I congratulate the leadership team on their successful proposal,” she says.

The program, Advancing Health Equity through Student Empowerment & Professional Success (HealthE STEPS) seeks to attract and advance a diverse nursing student body within the Oregon public education system, from pre-nursing through graduate education.

The grant provides financial help to 44 students annually. Those enrolled at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and Western Oregon University in Monmouth will qualify for stipends and scholarships ranging from $1,800 to $5,000 annually. Students in community colleges and those with a two-year associate degree who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing will be eligible for $1,000 to $2,250.

In Oregon, the program specifically hopes to increase the number of undergraduate nursing students from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2 percent a year, going from the current 13 percent to 19 percent by 2016. Because of the state’s poor ratio of Latino nurses to the Latino population (3.6 percent nurses to 12 percent population), the grant hopes to boost enrollment and support for students of Latino/Hispanic origin.

Another goal is to enroll more community college students with associate degrees into OHSU’s baccalaureate nursing degree program. Currently OHSU educates 55 of these students a year; the target is 70 by 2016.

OHSU has the only statewide public nursing school in Oregon, with campuses throughout the state--Ashland, Klamath Falls, La Grande, Monmouth and Portland. The school offers undergraduate and graduate nursing programs on all five campuses and is part of the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education, a consortium of public baccalaureate and associate-degree nursing programs to prepare nurses for today’s fast-changing health care environment. Students at nine partner community colleges are co-admitted to OHSU. After completion of their associate degree, students can seamlessly transition to OHSU to complete the baccalaureate degree program online or on the Portland campus.

“Nurses who approach their patients with deep understanding and compassion easily gain their patients’ trust and respect, says Norwood Knight-Richardson, M.D., OHSU senior vice president and chief diversity officer. “To eliminate disparities in health care, it’s important to recruit and train future nurses who are committed to addressing access, language, as well as myriad cultural differences and barriers.”

Other faculty working with Wros include Joanne Noone, Ph.D., R.N., campus associate dean in Ashland and project manager; Rana Najjar, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor and faculty coordinator on the Monmouth campus; and Anjanette Raber, R.N., M.S.N., doctoral candidate and project evaluator.


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