Scholarship Program That Fast-Tracks Minorities and Men Into Nursing Seeks Applications by Nov. 1

October 14, 2010 — By 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a need for more than a million new and replacement registered nurses.

In today's diverse culture it is more important than ever that these new nurses reflect underrepresented population groups. Men make up only 6.6 percent of nurses nationwide. According to 2007 Census Bureau statistics, minorities accounted for 34 percent of the U.S. population, yet African-Americans make up only 5.4 percent of nurses; Hispanics, 6.3 percent; Asian/Native Hawaiians, 5.8 percent; American Indians/Alaskan Natives 0.3 percent; and multi-racial nurses 1.7 percent – together totaling less than 20 percent of all nurses.

To address these issues, the University of Virginia School of Nursing has received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, through the foundation's New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program, to award scholarships to men and underrepresented minorities.

Men and minorities interested in applying for next semester should contact Clay Hysell at 434-924-0066 or cdh6n@virginia.edu. The application deadline is Nov. 1.

Grants provided through this program are given to students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in nursing, with the goal of preparing culturally competent leaders in the School of Nursing's accelerated Clinical Nurse Leader master's program.

"It’s important to have a nursing workforce that reflects the patient population," Nursing School Dean Dorrie Fontaine said. "That means men as well as women, minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It's about respect for all and cultural competency."

The New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program was launched in 2008 to address the national nursing shortage and fuel the pipeline of diverse nursing faculty. U.Va. has received funding all three years.

"Through the NCIN program, we are challenging the nation's nursing schools to be innovative and resourceful in how they grow their nursing programs, diversify student populations and contribute to the nursing leadership of tomorrow," said Denise A. Davis of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We are very pleased to support this unique approach, particularly at a time when growing numbers of Americans are gaining insurance and entering our health care system."

At U.Va., five $10,000 scholarships will be awarded to students entering accelerated nursing programs during the current academic year. The New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program has supported 25 U.Va. students in three years, totaling more than $250,000.

"Because of these awards, the master's-entry Clinical Nurse Leader program has been able to offer significant support to outstanding students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in nursing," Kathryn B. Reid, coordinator for the program, said. "The program of study is very intense and accelerated, and the scholarship support enables students to focus on their academic success as they prepare to enter nursing and become leaders in the future."

The New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program enables nursing schools to expand student capacity in accelerated baccalaureate and master's programs, and build a more diverse workforce to serve the needs of a changing patient population. Schools receiving grants through the program provide scholarships directly to students from groups underrepresented in nursing or from disadvantaged backgrounds. In its second year, 58 percent of scholarships went to students from diverse racial and ethnic groups and 37 percent went to male nursing students.

The funding is helping nursing student Dano Heatwole attain his goal of working with rural underprivileged patients. "The scholarship has allowed me to make a realistic commitment to working with low-income patient populations and not have to work full-time to cover school expenses," he said.

Ly Cao's entire graduate program is funded through financial aid loans. "I’m also a believer in things happening for a reason," she said. "At the time I was unsure of whether nursing was the field for me since I’m a Clinical Nurse Leader student whose background is in speech-language pathology. I took being awarded this scholarship as a positive sign and step towards becoming a registered nurse, and felt more secure about my decision."

Nationwide this year, 397 students in accelerated baccalaureate programs and 114 students in accelerated master's programs will receive scholarship funding. (A complete list of schools receiving the scholarships can be found here.) www.newcareersinnursing.org/current-programs

The New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program addresses many of the challenges confronting nursing education, professional development and the national workforce shortage. Accelerated programs like the ones the program supports provide scholars with the most efficient route to licensure as a registered nurse and create opportunities for adults who have already completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree in another field. These programs prepare students to pass the licensure exam required for all RNs in as little as 12 to 18 months and provide quicker routes to workforce eligibility than traditional programs.

By bringing more nurses into the profession at the baccalaureate and master's degree levels, the program also helps to address the nation's nurse faculty shortage. Data from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration show that nurses entering the profession via baccalaureate programs are four times more likely than other nurses to pursue a graduate degree in nursing.

Ninety-five percent of the students receiving funding in the first two years of the New Careers in Nursing Scholarship program indicate a desire to advance their education to the master's and doctoral levels.

Many nursing programs that received awards have used the New Careers in Nursing Scholarship funding to leverage additional resources to add new faculty, secure matching funding from state programs, develop mentoring and leadership development programs, strengthen outreach efforts, and establish new partnerships with community and practice leaders. For U.Va., the grant's effect was not only to add five nursing students, but also to create a new clinical partnership with the Veterans Administration hospital in Salem where students take part in critical care and psychiatric/mental health rotations.

These efforts will enable schools to sustain their program expansion while positioning them for growth, according to the Robert Wood Foundation.