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HealthMarch 22, 2021

Increasing diversity in senior nursing leadership through pilot programs

By:Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing1, information gathered in 2017 shows that ethnic minorities make up approximately 19.2% of the registered nursing workforce in America.

However, people from ethnic and racial minority groups account for 38%, or a little over one-third, of the country’s total population. As such, it’s vitally important that nurse leaders look for and develop ways to increase cultural competence and bolster ethnic diversity within the workplace.

Within the nursing profession, many members of ethnic minority groups have met with difficulty in achieving the same equity in healthcare leadership, and many feel marginalized. In the past, programs have been launched to empower African American and other minority nurses to help them achieve their career advancement goals. Mentorship programs have also proven beneficial for helping minority nurses develop the skills they need to pursue advanced nursing careers.

An article published in the March 2021 edition of JONA: Journal of Nursing Administraion2 details one quality improvement project intended to develop, implement, and evaluate a structured program to help minority leaders advance their careers. The project used mentorship and executive meetings to prepare these nurses for executive leadership roles.

NYU Langone Health Mentorship Diversity Initiative

The pilot program was launched on two campuses of the NYU Langone Health system, a large, integrated academic medical center consisting of six inpatient locations and a variety of ambulatory centers. The objectives of the program were simple:

  • Identify employees who self-identify as racial or ethnic minorities who also have the desire to advance along the nursing leadership career ladder.
  • Provide these employees with group and individual mentoring to help with career advancement.
  • Enhance the self-efficacy and self-confidence of participating nurses to help them advance their careers and seek promotions.

The program paired its 16 nurse participants with mentors from various racial backgrounds. Each participant completed two pre-assessment questionnaires and was invited to attend four monthly mentorship workshops. These workshops focused on:

  • Self-efficacy and self-confidence
  • Negotiation, collaboration, and networking
  • The paradigm of leadership
  • Quality of life and success

Keynote speakers, doctorate of nursing practice students, and minority leaders presented information at each workshop. Additionally, participants attended several one-on-one mentorship sessions and journaled about their experiences, sharing feedback with other group members during workshops. The design of the program was to help build a platform for each nurse to learn through the experiences of their peers.

Diversity pilot program results and successes

Following the conclusion of the pilot program, participants completed a 22-item Leadership Efficacy Questionnaire, and the results were compared to pre-assessment surveys previously taken. After four months, 87% of program participants were totally confident in themselves, and overall scores in all other categories improved.

Another survey, the Michigan Organizational Assessment Questionnaire, showed significant increases in perceptions of readiness for advancement to an executive role. In fact, 50% of the program participants had an increased desire to look for vertical positions, obtain promotions, or move to another organization vertically.

As the population of the country continues to diversify, nurse leaders must also work to improve diversity in the workplace. Pilot programs such as this one may be instrumental in expanding the skill sets and attitudes of minority nurses so they actively seek out leadership roles.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
Freelance Health and Medical Content Writer, Wolters Kluwer Health
Sarah has over nine years’ experience in various clinical areas, including surgery, endocrinology, family practice, and pharmaceuticals. She began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside to help educate and inform healthcare consumers and providers.
  1. “Enhancing Diversity in the Workforce” American Association of Colleges of Nursing: The Voice of Academic Nursing, 1 Apr. 2019,
  2. Brown-DeVeaux, Dewi DNP, BS, RN, et al. “Using a Mentorship Approach to Address the Underrepresentation of Ethnic Minorities in Senior Nursing Leadership.” NursingCenter, Mar. 2021,
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