St. Louis University Receives Over $2 Million in Scholarship Funds to Boost Diversity and Address Nursing Shortages

St. Louis University Receives Over $2 Million in Scholarship Funds to Boost Diversity and Address Nursing Shortages

In an effort funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, St. Louis University (SLU) received over $2 million in federal funds to provide nursing scholarships to disadvantaged students over the next three and a half years. Similar scholarship programs at schools around the country are being put into effect to address issues facing the nursing profession as a whole (i.e. lack of diversity, nursing shortages).

The first year of the grant will provide 20 scholarships to SLU students – 10 to freshmen and 10 to sophomores. Mentoring is part of the award package, a huge benefit to students who are participating in a high pressure program and career. In the future, high school students will be recruited specifically from disadvantaged campuses.

A 2010 Institute of Medicine report titled Future of Nursing specifically addressed diversity as an issue. Compared to the general US population, nursing students show both gender and racial disparities. In 2015 men made up just 12% of the students in pre-licensure programs, and white students were 10% more prevalent in nursing programs compared to the general population, with fewer African American and Latino students being represented in nursing programs.

The current population of registered nurses has even higher racial disparities. Nursing populations now are overwhelmingly white at nearly 75%, but the rising generation has a more representative ratio at just 61% white students. Diversity in the nursing workforce has become such an important issue because of the diversity of those being cared for. Future of Nursing’s Campaign for Action explains, “A nursing workforce that reflects the diversity of the country’s communities and populations will lead to better understanding of the many elements that affect a person’s health and emotional well-being and, ultimately, to improved interactions and treatment.”

“A nursing workforce that reflects the diversity of the country’s communities and populations will lead to better understanding of the many elements that affect a person’s health and emotional well-being and, ultimately, to improved interactions and treatment.”

Scholarships also offer another important aspect in that they form a path that leads to jobs. Many popular degrees in college today do not match up with high demand jobs so incentives to get students into fields that offer high post-graduation success is beneficial to everyone involved. There are 3.6 million registered nurses in the US, but with an aging population, the demand for nurses continues to grow.

Nursing isn’t an easy profession, but for those talented in providing care for others, especially those who thought they wouldn’t be able to afford nursing school, scholarships like the ones being offered at St. Louis University could make a difference. The fact that these scholarships contribute to creating a more diverse nursing workforce in the US is an added bonus.

Why Women in Healthcare Are An Endangered Species

Why Women in Healthcare Are An Endangered Species

Women represent nearly 80% of the healthcare workforce, and they represent 77% of hospital employees. Also, 26% of hospital and health system CEOs were women in 2014. Statistics show the number of women in healthcare is rising, but there are still challenges. One of the most widely talked about challenge is gender inequality, including the lack of women in leadership positions. While gender inequality is important, this issue is not why women in healthcare are an endangered species.

Women in the healthcare industry are just as likely (if not more) to suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and other mental and emotional issues. Like most healthcare workers, women who are physicians, registered nurses, home health aides and more enter the field with a passion to help others. But if you fall into these categories, how many times have you neglected your own needs? Shouldn’t you treat yourself with the same care as a patient?

While the term endangered is normally used in reference to animals, you’re surrounded by just as many threats as a leopard in the wild. For decades, women in healthcare have suffered from stress, fatigue, strain due to schedule, insufficiency in internal training, and injuries from physical tasks. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, female physicians die by suicide at a 400 percent higher rate than women in other professions. One article posed the question “who takes care of the caregivers?”

The answer is YOU!

There are some issues in healthcare that is a work in process, but you have the power to positively influence your well-being today. Your patients need you. Your family needs you. And, you need you. So, treat yourself with proper rest, prayer, stress management techniques, supportive relationships, and be the first thing on your to-do list by adhering to your discovery checklist.



5 Ways to Stop Stress from Ruining Your Day at Work

5 Ways to Stop Stress from Ruining Your Day at Work

When you’re a nurse, you know your day is going to have some stress. It’s the nature of the work, one that nurses accept so they can can have a career doing the incredible work they do.

But when stress gets to you at work, you aren’t just impacting yourself. When a nurse is running on empty and feeling the pressure build, it changes everything from their focus on medication math to patient interactions.

When you feel a particularly stressful day turning into an even worse one, what can you do to stop it or at least make it less awful?

1. Breathe

No, this isn’t one about stopping and taking nice cleansing breaths. That would, of course, be ideal and would go a long way toward helping bring down your stress levels. But very few nurses stop for anything in their day. You can do this one without even having to slow down, since you probably don’t have that option anyhow.

Breathe means focus – focus on your breath, focus on your feet walking in the hall, focus on a color. If you struggle with this, rub your hands together to bring your attention to one thing and ground you. Gaining that focus can help you stay in the moment and not become overwhelmed with a task ahead of you.

2. Walk Away

If you can escape to a quiet area – yes, even a bathroom stall works in a pinch – to close your eyes and count to 60, do it. Removing yourself from the stressful situation (obviously you can’t walk away from a patient you are caring for or responsible for) for a quick break can snap you back to a better place. Walk outside, walk down the hall, pop into the supply closet if that’s the only place–just pull yourself away so you can get a little perspective.

3. Think Ahead

When your mood is particularly bleak, plan something enjoyable. Whether that means looking forward to picking up a gossipy magazine, planning a charity run, taking your family out for an ice cream, or working on a puzzle, thinking about something you enjoy and can look forward to doing can make your current day a little more bearable.

4. Listen to Something

You can’t blast your favorite tunes at work, but you can listen to some that are especially meaningful or calming. If you need energy, there’s nothing like an old-fashioned rock anthem to pump up your mood. One song on your headphones can take you to another place. If music isn’t your thing, try a comedy channel to give you a laugh instead.

5. Plan for Stress

You’re a nurse and your job is stressful. You can’t get around that. But it’s not a surprise, so you can plan for ways to help combat the potential for crashing and burning when you have a bad day.

If your company offers any kind of wellness benefits, take advantage of them. Can you get a quick 15-minute chair massage to ease your aching muscles? Do they have yoga classes, nutrition seminars, or even lectures on how to reduce stress? Take advantage of these benefits because they can help you. Do you have a coworker who always says the right thing to cheer you? Seek that person out.

One of life’s hardest lessons is when you realize no one else is going to take care of your stress for you. When you show up for work, you’re needed immediately and entirely. If your well is running low, you need to take steps to fill it up again. Try a few things to see what works best to dampen your stress and then keep doing it.

University of Florida College of Nursing to Increase Diversity with New Director

University of Florida College of Nursing to Increase Diversity with New Director

The University of Florida (UF) College of Nursing has named Dr. Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini, PhD, RN, FAAN, its first director of diversity and inclusion. Created to enhance awareness and dialogue about important issues in diversity, the newly established position was created based on recommendations from UF’s diversity and inclusion task force.

Stacciarini is an associate professor in the college and has been with UF since 2006. Her research focuses on mental health promotion among minorities and community-based participatory research for minority, rural, and international populations. Stacciarini has been recognized for her work with underserved populations with the 2012 Southern Nursing Research Society (SNRS) Award for Research in Minority Health and the 2014 APNA Award for Excellence in Research. Outside the College of Nursing, Stacciarini is a leader on campus as chair of the UF President’s Council on Diversity and she sits on President Fuchs’ leadership cabinet.

In her new position she aims to create better dialogue and educate others about the need for diversity. She will work on student and faculty recruitment to create a better working and learning environment. Leading a new initiative with undergraduate students in the College of Nursing, Stacciarini will be launching a program called Engaging Multiple-communities of BSN students in Research and Academic Curricular Experiences (EMBRACE).

UF College of Nursing Dean, Anna M. McDaniel, says she believes that Dr. Stacciarini’s diversity work will have a positive impact on the entire college and serve as a campus-wide model. Dr. Stacciarini is a tireless advocate for faculty, staff, students, and patients from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, and as director of diversity and inclusion she will play a lead role in carrying out the College of Nursing’s commitment to diversity and inclusion for all members of the community.

Casey Dillon, a nursing graduate student in the college and former student of Stacciarini says she thinks more diversity in the college will prepare students for nursing careers. Nurses work with a wide variety of people every day, so diversity education is a necessary thing.

As nurses, Stacciarini says we need to be prepared to care for a more diverse patient body. She is honored to fill this important position and work to help more people understand diversity and inclusion to sustain that culture across the College. She hopes to bring ideas from the President’s Council on Diversity to new initiatives in the College of Nursing.

Helping New Nurses One Video at a Time

Helping New Nurses One Video at a Time

When Jannel D. Gooden, BSN, RN, was a new nurse, the first six months were traumatic for her. Her short-lived time in an adult oncology unit had her second-guessing her decision to become a nurse.

“I went through a spectrum of emotions and confusion, and at the time, I felt very isolated in the experience,” Gooden recalls. “I now know that it is a common thread all nurses share. The novice nurse journey is difficult.”

After she left her first position, Gooden says she made it her mission to create and expand on helping guide new nurses. She currently works as a travel nurse in the pediatric critical care setting throughout California. In her free time, she makes videos which she posts on her Instagram account @NoviceIsTheNewNurse to give advice to new nurses so that they learn and no longer feel alone.



Some of Gooden’s videos came about because she read through the journal notes she kept during her first three years in nursing and came up with a topic. She will share what was troubling her at the time in a way that she feels will help other nurses. Other times, she makes videos in response to questions that new nurses have emails or messaged to her. Sometimes, she simply speaks directly from her heart.

“I believe everything I went through in my first few months as a new nurse shaped my passion for helping new nurses in their journey,” says Gooden.

Some of her videos even feature doctors giving advice to new nurses. But she has a specific reason for including them. “We work with physicians every shift, no matter what specialty of nursing we are in. It is vital to patient care that we learn to effectively communicate with our physicians, that we are not intimidated by them, and that we develop a healthy working relationship,” explains Gooden. “Using a physician to offer advice to new nurses softens their identity. It gently takes them down from that unapproachable platform and allows a new nurse to hear advice in their safe place. It allows the new nurse to receive the advice without the nerves of the workplace or the pressures of pending orders that need to be carried out. It provides a new perspective on how they are viewed in the workplace and what is expected from them as a team member.”



The term “new nurse” doesn’t just necessarily mean someone fresh out of nursing school. Gooden says that when she switched to the critical care field, she became a new nurse all over again. “Every day was a mental, physical, and emotional workout. The equipment was unfamiliar, the families were scary, the patients and all the wires, the time management skills—some days I was afraid to even tough my own patient,” she says. All that is in the past, but by sharing her experiences with new nurses, she is making a difference.

Gooden gets asked a lot of questions, and Minority Nurse asked her about advice she would give to new minority nurses who might be experiencing discrimination, bullying, and/or stereotypes. “Discrimination and bullying are topics we sweep under the rug in nursing school. No one seems to talk about it, but it is a very real thing for new nurses of all ethnic backgrounds,” Gooden says. “New nurses carry a certain enthusiasm and hope that all nurses need to be reminded of it. My greatest advice is to hold on tight to your light. Try not to get discouraged in your practice during the very inevitable difficult moments. Your work will speak louder for you than any words you could ever speak, so do not get lost in the stupidity of others. Be an advocate for yourself. Do not allow anyone to treat you unfairly. Know when and how to put your foot down, all while maintaining your professionalism.”

Top Five Pieces of Advice for New Nurses

Gooden has top pieces of advice that she would give to new nurses, and they focus on what she believes are not emphasized in nursing school, a consistent part of the nursing curriculum, or ingrained into nursing training.

1. Be Confident.

Your patient cannot trust you, if you cannot trust you.

2. Know How to Delegate.

We are taught the meaning but not taught how to execute the verb. One piece of advice I always suggest? Get to know your CNAs and PCTs. This creates a more comfortable environment for you to be able to ask them to complete a task for you. It also shows your respect for their line of work by getting to know them outside of your needs.

3. Vent.

Find a friend and let it all out—preferably a nursing buddy you can trust. If you do not release the frustrating energy in a healthy way, your patients will feel your tension. When you are tense, you are also more inclined to make mistakes.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions.

Question everything! Ask every why and how that comes to mind. The new nurse who does not ask questions is the nurse that scares everyone on that unit.

5. Be an Advocate.

Knowing how to advocate for yourself is truly what makes you a more comfortable advocate for your patients. So please, speak up for yourself.

Gooden is in the process of creating a YouTube channel featuring her advice for new nurses. In the meantime, you can find them on her Instagram. “I want to help new nurses because I am forever that new nurse. If one fails, we all fail because we collectively make up a profession that the world depends on,” says Gooden. “I want new nurses to gain confidence with their practice because people do not stop getting sick because we are afraid. Once you can overcome fear as a new nurse, then the door to growth is wide open.”

Neonatal Nurses: Helping the Tiniest Patients

Neonatal Nurses: Helping the Tiniest Patients

In honor of National Neonatal Nurses Day, we interviewed five nurses in different facets of the field to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a neonatal nurse, including the challenges and rewards involved in caring for the tiniest patients of all.

A Day in the Life

Rebecca L. Hunt, RN, MSN, APRN-CNP, CCNS, a neonatal nurse practitioner at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, walks us through a typical day in the NICU:

“Generally, each workday starts off by first ‘scrubbing in.’ Then the nurses will begin getting report from the off-going shift. This report will include a brief history of the mothers’ pregnancies, the birth histories, and what occurred in the delivery room. The nurses will

discuss a brief history of the babies’ hospital courses (types of respiratory support, any feeding difficulties, surgical history, etc.). Report will also include the babies’ current clinical status and what type of support they are receiving (respiratory, nutrition, antibiotics, etc.). Finally, the nurses will double check what medications the babies are receiving as well as all infusing IV fluids, including TPN/IL, and any other continuous medications.

From report, the nurse will prioritize which of the babies will need to be cared for first. The remainder of the day will include performing complete assessments on the babies being cared for every one to four hours depending on how critically ill they are, what types of interventions and care are required, and what type of feeding schedules they are on. All assessments, feedings, and medications given are charted into the electronic medical record in real time. The nurses will also do IV fluid changes and mix feedings as requested by the NICU care team.

Throughout the shift, the nurse will continually work with parents and family members on how to properly care for their babies. Feeding a premature infant is very different than feeding a baby who is born at term gestation and healthy. The nurses will also work with families on providing care (feeding, bathing, etc.) to babies who may be on a ventilator or have a tracheostomy in place. The nurses will also educate the families on signs and symptoms to look for to help distinguish if their babies are doing well or may need to be seen by a member of the health care team once they are home. The nurses will teach families about home oxygen, home apnea monitors, and how to safely put their baby to sleep at home. They will also take photos and help the families document the small victories their babies achieve, such as the first time wearing clothes, the first time taking a bottle, the first bath, etc.

During the nurses’ shift, they will also participate in rounds. The entire medical team (neonatologist, fellow, nurse practitioner, resident, dietician, and pharmacist) will gather at each baby’s bedside and discuss the infant and the expected plan of care for the next 24

hours. The nurses are major advocates for the babies and actively participate in making critical care decisions, such as whether babies should or shouldn’t have their respiratory support weaned, receive more food, or attempt to bottle feed more. The nurses will let the team know if they believe babies are showing signs and symptoms of becoming sick. Finally, the nurses will also encourage the parents to be an active participant in bedside rounds and provide their own observations of how their baby is doing.”


One of the biggest challenges in being a neonatal nurse is maintaining the professional boundary between yourself and the family says Gail A. Bagwell, DNP, APRN, CNS, the clinical nurse specialist for perinatal/neonatal outreach at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “The babies are in a NICU for long periods of time, and you get to know the parents very well. Learning to be caring and compassionate, while maintaining a professional relationship is a learned skill and difficult for many nurses,” explains Bagwell. “I learned it early on in my career when a baby I was caring for developed some severe complications that led to her death. The pain of getting close to the baby and the family taught me that in order to survive in this field, I would need to learn to be caring and compassionate while maintaining a distance.”

Kim Guglielmo, BSN, RNC-NIC, Clinical Nurse III in the Newborn Critical Care Center at the University of North Carolina’s Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, agrees that losing patients is one of the toughest experiences as a neonatal nurse. “Those are the days that hurt my heart,” she says. “At the time before, during, and after the passing, I am there to support the family however they may need it. My goal is to make this last involvement with their baby the most beautiful experience ever.”

For Taryn M. Edwards, MSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, a surgical nurse practitioner of general, thoracic, and fetal surgery in the NICU of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, sharing setbacks and obstacles with families is her biggest challenge. “The reality is that some of the most vulnerable infants do not make it. Supporting families through that difficult time is always challenging,” she explains.

The Rewards

While there are a lot of challenges and sad times in neonatal nursing, there are lots of great times as well. “There is nothing quite as rewarding as handing a mother her premature infant, sometimes still attached to a ventilator, and helping her position the baby for skin-to-skin time on her chest,” says Sherri Brown, MSN/Ed, RN, RNC-NIC, staff nurse at the Neonatal UCU at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. “Or in watching parents’ faces light up when their infant curls his tiny hand around their fingers or helping them give their baby a bath for the first time or change a diaper. These things are taken for granted in the healthy newborn world, but they take on extreme importance in the premie world.”

Guglielmo says she feels blessed to care for the smallest and most fragile of patients and have an impact on their lives. “I get to meet so many brave, courageous families who go through so much and teach me more than they ever know,” she says. Many NCCC units and NICUs have reunions in which former NCCC or NICU babies and their families return to the hospitals to celebrate. “I can’t wait to see them all!” says Guglielmo.

Nursing Profession Carries Injury Risk

Nursing Profession Carries Injury Risk

One of the most difficult aspects of a nurse’s job is often the sheer physical challenges of being on your feet all day and frequently moving patients in and out of wheelchairs, assitive devices, beds, bathrooms, or from place to place.

Because both patients and nurses come in all shapes and sizes and because people are generally unpredictable, moving patients isn’t easy for nurses. Sometimes, moving patients can be unsafe and cause nurses everything from aching backs and sore wrists to serious, lasting bodily injury.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 294,000 hospital workers suffered nonfatal injury or illness in 2014. That’s an alarming number of injuries for just reporting to work every day. Nurses can help keep their risk of injury lower by being trained in safe movements that consider the varying weight, body movement, and force exerted by the patients being moved. Equally important, if not even more so, is advocating for the availability and proper use of equipment to help them move patients.

Most nurses accept the risk of injury as a part of such a physically taxing job, but the reality is that some of the injuries can be disabling and many of the injuries are preventable. The more you can protect yourself every day, the safer your will be and the level of care you can give will remain high. After all, if you are in pain, you could be putting yourself and your patients at further risk.

Last year, National Public Radio devoted a series to injured nurses, which stated that even when nurses try to move a patient with what they think is a safe method, they still can injure their backs and cause other strains. The topic is so pressing that many states are enacting legislation to help ensure the safety of medical workers.

But there is a way to reduce the injuries and that is with training of safe ways to move patients and using all the available technology and equipment to help. Even if you are busy, there’s no shortage of resources to help you find the best way to move patients and to identify equipment that will help lessen the physical strain. It’s always a good idea to advocate for training in your workplace, so you can get a real, in-person experience to make sure you are moving your body and your patient properly to reduce the risk of injury.

If that’s not possible, see if another hospital or facility if offering any kind of training class. Whether you take a class or not, be sure to look at the resources offered by the American Association for Safe Pateint Handling and Movement, the American Nurses Association, and the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). All these organizations have in-depth resources to help educate nurses about the safest and most risk-free ways to move and lift patients.

If you are in a career you love, you need to protect yourself as much as possible and that means reducing your risk of injury as much as you can.

Top 5 tips for graduate  school success

Top 5 tips for graduate school success

Top 5 Tips for Graduate school

So, you are thinking about completing your Master’s degree.  You may be just graduating with your bachelor’s, established in your career, seeking career advancement, or an overall career change.  You should commend yourself wherever you currently are in your professional journey.  Graduate school is essential for career progression and as daunting as the challenge may be it is feasible and worthwhile.  However, there are certain things that I wish I had known previously to enrolling in my first graduate courses that would have saved me a ton of grief on this grad school journey.

Learn the APA Manual

Do you briefly remember being introduced to this in your undergraduate English and Research classes?  You know, the blue book that you couldn’t wait to toss as soon as you completed those courses!  Well, don’t get too excited and toss that manual out just yet.  The APA manual will be your bible at the graduate level.  It is best to not only familiarize yourself with it but read it cover to cover.  In all seriousness, there will be no mercy for APA formatting issues at the graduate level, and failure to comply will hinder your ability to graduate.  Let’s be honest; graduate school is very expensive so do not lose points over APA errors and get your bang for your bucks when it’s time to cash in on that top G.P.A.


Grad school will push your writing capabilities to the maximum.  When I first started, I went in under the false pretenses that I was a decent writer.  After all, my highest scores were always in English and Language Arts.  However, never underestimate the power of proofreading your document, or having someone else review it.  It is important to remember that you are not supposed to be writing as if you are talking in scholarly writing.  Read every single thing you submit out loud at least two times before turning it in.  You will be surprised at some errors you will find in your documents once you hear it out loud. I swear by Owlet Purdue, Grammarly, and PERRLA to assist with the completion of my papers.

Don’t Break

One of the biggest mistakes that I made during my Grad school journey was “taking a break”.  Apparently, life happens to everybody, but if you can help it, you should stay on the course to graduate on time.  While taking a leave of absence is certainly an option, there are some universities have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the completion of your master’s degree.  Taking a leave of absence sounds a nice break until you return and you are under even more pressure to complete your degree.  Stay on track and graduate on time.  Put yourself out of grad school misery.  Try not to prolong it.

Find Balance

My zodiac sign of a Libra makes finding balance very high on my priority list.  Regardless of your sign, it is essential to find a way to balance everything you have going on in life.  Many of us are career focused, have spouses or partners, children, and community obligations.  There are going to be some times that you will simply have to say no to others as well as avoid taking on too many additional duties.  You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  Do not feel guilty about taking a step back or going on a much need hiatus to keep everything together.  Remember that this is temporary, and there will always be opportunities to restock your plate once you have graduated.

Cost vs. Reputation

This has been an ongoing debate for such a long time.  I will give you my honest opinion and say that it is best to go for value in regards to selecting a school to attend.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with investing yourself, but please do not break the bank along the way.  Try your very best to avoid debt, save up, and develop a reasonable budget that you can use to finance your educational goals.  If you are shelling out a ton of money, ensure that the institution has a reputation that fits your tuition bill.  Student loan debt is a serious problem.  Remember that you will need to pay that money back, and if this degree does not make a high paying job seem promising to you it may be necessary to scale back.  Remember, grad school isn’t cheap!

Wrapping it All Up

I hope that you avoid the pitfalls that I incurred during my grad school journey and that these tips will help ease you in your transition and prepare you for entry into grad school.  A graduate degree is totally obtainable; it’s just a different academic dynamic.  I’ll see you on the other side!

graduation photo




Meet Minority Nurse Scholarship Finalist Shanelle McMillan

Meet Minority Nurse Scholarship Finalist Shanelle McMillan

Minority Nurse Scholarship finalist Shanelle McMillan says nursing is a family tradition, but that she has been especially gratified to start her nursing career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

Now a junior in Winston-Salem State University’s Division of Nursing, McMillan’s five-year plan includes an RN, a BSN, and enrollment in the doctorate of nursing at Winston-Salem State University where she would eventually like to teach.

But she believes her training as a CNA gave her the most fundamental and essential introduction to nursing that she could have. In her scholarship application, McMillan called becoming a CNA one of her most meaningful achievements.

As a CNA, McMillan says she was able to see if nursing was really going to be the right career choice for her. Always the first to comfort others who are upset or in pain, McMillan says the experience as a CNA offered close work with patients where she was able to see almost immediate impact.

I believe the benefits of starting as a CNA is to get your hands and feet wet in the healthcare system and to see if you will really like nursing or not,” she says. And the daily interactions with people meant she would spend considerable amounts of time caring for patients, but also getting to know them as well.

As a CNA I have first-hand knowledge of the struggles of disabled persons and what they go through on a daily basis,” she says. “I get to interact with the client which is the most important of all because if you get to know your client, it will be easier to care for them.”

And McMillan says this is also where she saw the benefits of a diverse nursing staff. When patients see people who look like they do or have the same cultural experiences, they are more open, she says. Developing that strong bond helps with treatment.

Raised primarily by her grandmother in Richmond, Virginia, McMillan’s determination and drive come from watching her. As a nurse who worked long hours, McMillan’s grandmother always helped people, even during her off hours. That kind of role model was a huge influence.

My determination comes from my rough childhood and upbringing,” she says. “My dad always told me to be strong and tough, and my grandmother always taught me to never give up.”

As she has progressed through nursing school, McMillan says the friends she has made and the supportive professors have all helped her success. And McMillan also credits her faith with keeping her moving forward. “There were a lot of setbacks in my life getting me to this point,” she says. “And I have to give thanks and all honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without him, I don’t even think I would be in nursing school.”

With her progression through the various opportunities in the nursing profession, McMillan says she is especially conscious of being part of a group that is so determined in its dedication.

Some say all nurses have at least one thing in common,” says McMillan, “they want to help people. Not only do they play the role of caretaker for their patients, but in some circumstances, they can also be a friend, an advocate, counselor and teacher. It takes a special kind of person to fill all of those roles the way nurses do.”

African American Women and the Stigma Associated with Breastfeeding

African American Women and the Stigma Associated with Breastfeeding

August marks national breastfeeding awareness month, and although overall national breastfeeding rates are on the rise, breastfeeding rates for African American mothers are significantly lower than other racial groups. The benefits for both mother and baby are numerous, yet some new mothers are hesitant to do so, especially in the African American community. Why are African American women less likely to breastfeed compared to their white counterparts?

A persistent discrepancy exists between African American mothers and mothers of other races who breastfeed. African American mothers have been lagging behind their white counterparts for years when it comes to breastfeeding.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the initiation rate of breastfeeding among African Americans is 16% less than whites. Multiple factors in the African American community may play a role in these discrepancies.

Lower breastfeeding rates among African American women begin with education, or lack thereof. “You can never have too much education and information,” says Joycelyn Hunter-Scott, a mom of two young sons. When asked about a stigma in the African American community Hunter-Scott replies, “I don’t think it’s a stigma; I believe it may have something to do with the lack of education and information the mothers receive during and especially after pregnancy—especially the younger mothers.”

Hunter-Scott, who was a mother who extensively researched breastfeeding when she was pregnant, is correct regarding the lack of education during the perinatal period affecting overall breastfeeding rates. According to the CDC, some hospitals within African American communities are failing to fully support breastfeeding. In a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, ten indicators that show hospitals are supporting breastfeeding were evaluated showing that hospitals in zip codes with more than a 12.2% African American population were less likely to implement three specific indicators. These indicators include: helping mothers initiate breastfeeding early on, having infants “room in” with their mothers after birth, and limiting what infants eat or drink in the hospital to only breast milk.

Renee Bell-Eddings, MSN, RNC-OB, whose main job function is to educate staff nurses within the Women, Infant, and Children’s (WIC) department in a community-based hospital in Houston, Texas, also knows education is the key for new mothers, but also attributes a social component to breastfeeding. “I believe the reason there is a stigma is simply [because of] the lack of education and support from family and friends. Often times we see that she is the only woman in her family that has chosen to breastfeed. We also have to understand that the family plays a big role in the choices that a mother will make concerning breastfeeding—that’s where we see the cycle of breakdown because she doesn’t have the support she needs to continue.” A new mother needs support from those closest to her when taking on the challenges a breastfeeding mother may face.

A two-time mother, Hunter-Scott breastfed both of her sons—the eldest for one year and the youngest for seven months. She credits the support of her mother, sisters, and husband during that time. “This [support] made an enormous impact on my decision to breastfeed for the timeframe that I did,” she says.

Although Hunter-Scott had the support of her family (and nearly six months of maternity leave), she can see how a mother not having support or having a short maternity leave can negatively affect breastfeeding rates in the African American community. “I think it is important that the health care staff initiate breastfeeding after birth and make sure not to give pacifiers or artificial nipples to infants. I also believe many African American women don’t have the luxury of staying home after they have their baby. Some have to go back to work within a few weeks, some a few days, so it’s quicker and easier to send the baby off to childcare with formula.”

Negative cultural influences in the African American community about breastfeeding can also play a role in breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding has been seen by some African American women as reverting to “slavery days” when feeding a child by breast was the only option. Baby formula as we know it was developed in the late 1800’s and soon gained popularity when feeding a baby with formula was seen as something only “elite and sophisticated” mothers do, regardless of race. These advertising campaigns led many women to believe breastfeeding was a choice only for lower income mothers.

Another issue that faces a breastfeeding mother is public breastfeeding and the potential shaming from others. Feeding a child in public from the breast is often seen as indecent and given a perverse sexual connotation. Being able to feed on demand is crucial for the continued production of breast milk in a lactating mother. The shaming some women endure is enough to discourage them from continuing to breastfeed even if they have chosen to do so initially. The indecency claims of public breastfeeding generalizations make it hard for any woman, let alone an African American woman, to nurture her child through breastfeeding. Negative portrayals by the media and in our own communities have a profound effect on the initiation and continuance of breastfeeding.

The societal and commercial pressures to not breastfeed or stop breastfeeding altogether before six months of age are evident through aggressive marketing campaigns of formula producers. Societal pressures include: not having a national maternity leave law, the shaming of breastfeeding in public, and not having enough dedicated breastfeeding areas in public establishments to encourage breastfeeding. Many mothers do not have the ability to stay home for extended periods of time after birth, further encouraging them to stop exclusive breastfeeding in exchange for formula. Working mothers in the United States need support to continue breastfeeding before their baby is even born by means of national legislation for established maternity leave, breastfeeding or pumping breaks when they return to work, and a willingness from their employer to provide a conducive environment to support a mother’s wish to continue to breastfeed.

With all racial and societal factors aside, breastfeeding offers both mother and baby numerous benefits—and this is why it’s vital that mothers attempt to breastfeed for at least six months. When formula was introduced it was touted as the “perfect food” for a growing baby, but nothing compares to a mother’s milk. Breast milk has everything needed to sustain an infant and promote lifelong health. Nurturing a newborn with a mother’s milk offers baby rich nutrients that have proven benefits for both mother and baby, not to mention the money saved from not purchasing formula.

Infant mortality rates are twice as high for African American babies than white babies, and breastfeeding is the key to saving infant lives. Health benefits of breastfeeding for baby include decreasing the risk of common childhood illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma. It also provides long-term benefits for obesity and future diabetes risk, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Mothers benefit from breastfeeding by helping get back to pre-pregnancy weight sooner (breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day!) as well as decreasing risk for diabetes and breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.

Education, education, and more education is the key to increasing breastfeeding rates in the African American community. Education has to start during the prenatal period and continue through birth and thereafter. Bell-Eddings knows knowledge is power: “Education is a big key in changing the mindset of all and allowing mom to make an informed decision.”



OCTOBER 21, 2016 10 AM to 4 PM EDT

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