The Elsevier Foundation is committed to supporting nursing students through the Schools of Nursing Scholarship Fund—a step in the right direction for ensuring that all nursing students are provided a level playing field when pursuing higher education. Springboarding off the National League of Nursing/Elsevier HBCU Excellence in Technology Innovation programs, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Schools of Nursing Scholarship Fund aims to address the pervasive health disparities in U.S health care by promoting a racially diverse nursing workforce.
Over the past three years, the Foundation has worked closely with education and nursing institutions to promote equitability in learning and practice. Dr. Cecil Holland, the Professor of Nursing and Associate Dean at Winston Salem State University, shared with us how this “scholarship has made the dream of becoming a professional nurse attainable for many students.” To reach their professional goals, Dr. Holland stressed that reducing the financial burden on students substantially relieves “the stress imposed surmounting student debt”, resulting in students completing their education uninhibited.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are deeply committed to fostering thriving careers in tandem with research and outreach on the needs of minority communities. With 107 HBCUs across the U.S, these academic institutions allow African American students to develop professionally, while building community through a shared sense of belonging and initiative. For nursing students, HBCUs bridge the gap between accessing knowledge and providing equitable patient care to people of colour. By creating inclusive learning opportunities that extend beyond classroom, HBCUs are recognized as a space for reflection and change.
According to The Future of Nursing 2020–2030 report from the National Academy of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there is an ongoing dialogue about how structural racism continues to influence the various facets of U.S health care. Embedded in policies and institutions that oversee health care providers, structural racism fuels disparities in patient care by undermining the well-being of patients from racially diverse communities. As frontline workers, nursing practitioners are an integral to the entire medical profession.
Nurses are vital and so is their education
Nurses are on the frontlines of direct patient care. As the first point of contact and the medical professional that interacts most frequently with patients, nurses are an indispensable part of health care. In terms of workforces, nurses also represent 4 times the size of the physician workforce and play a pivotal role in overseeing patients throughout their treatment. Nurses became especially visible during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only called attention to severe public health challenges in the U.S health care system, but also reaffirmed the absolute necessity of a racially diverse nursing workforce. Investing in the education of nursing students from diverse communities will produce nursing professionals that are aware of the issues around delivering equitable care.
Inequities in funding results in inequities in opportunities
While HBCUs are committed to student excellence, funding inequities caused by the historical legacy of racism continue to persist creating disparities in adequate nursing education and practice. According to The Century Foundation, HBCUs’ continue to work towards closing the prevailing funding gap, further exacerbated by worsening economic conditions such as inflation. Although substantial efforts are in place to bolster financial means, such as increasing the cap for out-of-state enrolment ("Promoting Health Equity"), funding inequities and inadequate allocation of resources continue to be problematic for HBCUs.
Alejandra Cortes-Espino, a nursing student at Winston Salem University and recipient of the scholarship, shared the financial challenges she faces in completing her education: “Due to the fast progression of the program and being a single mother, I was unable to maintain my CNA job throughout the program. Receiving the scholarship helped me lessen the financial burden and allowed me to complete my studies…It makes a big difference.”
Addressing these inequities is the first step towards helping nursing students, like Alejandra, have unencumbered access to learning and professional opportunities.
Diversifying leadership leads to diversified health care
A lack of diversity in nursing stems from a lack of awareness and resources for providing equitable care to racially stigmatized populations. Diversifying from the top has the potential to create a ‘’ripple effect’’ that resonates through all levels of health care. Racially diverse nursing leaders can tap into their own lived experience to share knowledge and expertise in treating patients from racially diverse communities. Moreover, to address the persisting attrition of nursing students, especially from minority communities, initiatives to increase leadership roles for nurses have also become increasingly prevalent. Researchers in“Promoting Health Equity” encourage HBCUs to adopt hiring practices that focus on diversifying faculty. As a result, a strong presence of diversity within schools translates to the expectations people will have for the professional workforce. Creating diverse nursing leaders starts with opportunities for students to enter leadership pathways—ultimately, diversifying all levels of the nursing profession.
HBCUs recognize the importance of creating a diverse health care community, starting with their nursing students. Dedicated to fostering diversity within nursing, HBCUs encourage partnerships between schools and other institutions to facilitate practice-ready nurses’ entry into the health care profession and ultimately leadership pathways. Systemic bias continues to plague the U.S health care system, negatively impacting the type and quality of treatment people of colour receive. By building a community that serves to encourage academic and professional success of communities of colour, HBCUs are invested in students throughout their professional development as nurses of the future.
The historical legacies of limiting African Americans access to education speaks to HBCUs commitment to provide substantial support for students’ learning and professional development. This narrative of facilitating student success from classroom to workforce reverberates strongly amongst HBCUs. Through partnership with the Elsevier Foundation, that narrative is not only recognized, but underscored through financial assistance. With a budget of $50,000 USD distributed equally between five participating HBCUs across the U.S, this scholarship fund reiterates the importance of bestowing funds directly in the hands of schools. By giving each school $10,000 USD to distribute at their discretion, schools can create targeted scholarships to alleviate financial burden, reward service participation, and aid students in other ways.
Nursing student Angie Herrera relays the impact the scholarship has on her ability to pursue higher education: “The Elsevier scholarship has made a positive impact in my progression in the nursing program. The additional funds covered necessary expenses, which allowed me to focus on my studies. I was able to spend more time studying to achieve academic excellence. This scholarship gave me support and helped me overcome obstacles in the form of tuition, bills and other expenses. I was able to continue in the program without fear of financial instability. I feel grateful to have been given this opportunity and it has helped me reach my lifelong dream, which is to graduate from college. Thank you.”
It is important that support for students goes beyond words of encouragement and takes shape in the form of meaningful action. The Elsevier Foundation’s HBCU Schools of Nursing Scholarship Fund provides monetary support to schools and students for the betterment of education and health care across the United States. By acting as a conduit for change, this scholarship fund supports the diversification and sustainability of future nurses—beginning with an equitable start.
TOTAL SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED IN 2020-2022: 61 students
Winston Salem University Nursing School
Total beneficiaries: 20 undergraduate student.
Tuskegee University School of Nursing and Allied Health
Total beneficiaries: 6 undergraduate students
North Carolina A&T University School of Nursing
Total beneficiaries: 10 undergraduate students in
Total beneficiaries: 5 undergraduate students
North Carolina Central University School of Nursing
Total beneficiaries: 20 undergraduate students
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