Recruiting a diverse nursing student body is important, but nurse educators must also incorporate inclusive strategies into their education programs so all can graduate and enter clinical practice.
Diversity and inclusion are currently huge buzzwords in and out of nursing education. These words are found on nursing school websites, syllabi, programs offered, white papers and the like. Diversity is defined by the American Nurses Association (2020) as having a broad range of individual, population and social characteristics represented and inclusion is requiring intentionality to embrace differences. So, in our efforts to meet these challenges, nursing education has strived to create admission practices that can allow a diverse and inclusive student cohort…but the striving often stops there.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021, only 13.3% of nurses are male, 8.8 % are Hispanic and 13.3% are black. Where is the disconnect from desired admission practices to promote diversity and inclusion to graduating a diverse workforce? Maybe, the disconnect is in our day to day carrying out of our nursing curriculum. Do, we as faculty, incorporate diversity and inclusion in our classrooms, clinicals and labs? Let’s use the nursing process to implement in our programs more diverse and inclusive strategies, so we can graduate the diverse cohort that we have admitted.
1. Assess your students
Any good nurse knows that assessment is the first step we take with our patients, well, it’s also good for our students. Screen using available tools such as TOEFFL (for English as an Additional Language) or VARK (preferred learning and study styles). Listen to them. Set up time to meet with students in the beginning of the program before the semester gets busy. Students will often tell you key things that are on their mind about problems they are having currently having and misperceptions they have about your program or content. Ask what they need to be successful? It may just be time with you!
2. Diagnose their challenges
Find out what is hindering the student from being successful. It may be that English is not their first language, or they can’t see the overhead screen, or they don’t know root words, prefixes and suffixes. If the student doesn’t know how to round to the tenths place, for instance, then solving for medication administration problems can be a nightmare. Identifying a problem is essential to solving it!
3. Outline their career goals
No matter, how much we would like to think all our students are on the same page or slide of our lecture, there could be nothing further from the truth. Each student is unique. Help each student to set goals for themselves for what they will do and learn today, this week, etc. Students need help setting goals toward dealing with the problems we have diagnosed. Maybe the problem is English is not their first language. This student’s goal would be to understand what is being said in the classroom and written on a test. Maybe our part in this is to give a transcript of what we said.
4. Plan for success
Help the student to make a success plan for the problems identified. Tell the student that you are committed to their success. You may be the only one telling them that. Give rationale as to why the goal you outlined is essential.
5. Intervene at the beginning
In the fast-paced nursing programs we teach in, whether traditional or accelerated, early intervention is key. Get access to the screening tool results the students took. Start using these tools in orientation before classes begin. Write down what the student says when you meet with them and take action. Maybe this student needs to go to the writing center, student success coordinator or maybe they need food and shelter.
6. Evaluate differently
Every evaluation method in a nursing education program does not need to be a 60-question multiple choice and multiple select question test. These tests often cause extreme test anxiety because of wording that is not inclusive of all the students. Discuss with your curriculum committee about which courses will have traditional tests and then talk about which other classes will evaluate using an alternate method. Have students verbalize a care plan at the end of clinical day instead of writing it. Use short answer questions or a 1-page paper instead of a traditional nursing exam.
Creating a diverse and inclusive nursing workforce only starts in our admission process. The real work in our daily interaction with all students and our expectations of what success looks like. It is in our reimagining daily class, clinical, and lab as embracing diversity and inclusiveness that we can keep all that get a seat!