When Dr. Scharmaine Baker started the Nola the Nurse book series, she knew kids needed information about advanced practice nurses and a role model to show them all about it. What Baker, DNP, didn’t expect was the impact the character and the Nola books would have on kids or the people who would help her get the word out.
On October 27, Baker told her story on The Harry Show, in which New Orleans-native, show host, and entertainer Harry Connick, Jr. gave her a chance to talk about Nola the Nurse on a show devoted to nursing. While the experience was thrilling (and included a vacation to Punta Cana that Connick gave to her family), Baker was especially excited at the thought of having more information about nursing and advanced practice nursing reach a national audience so quickly. “He said, ‘I really believe in Nola the Nurse and I hope this show helps you go far,’” recalls Baker of Connick’s support.
Nola has really taken off,” says Baker. She started the books when she couldn’t find any books that featured African American NPs or even many that talked about nursing as a career. Baker’s books take her Nola character into people’s homes, each of which exposes her to different cultures.
Over the summer, Baker said she thought a mascot would help the kids connect nursing to real life, so she added a life-size Nola doll to bring with her when she makes presentations and reads her books to groups. “She’s a tremendous hit,” says Baker about the Nola doll.
Kids get engaged with the story and it’s an opportunity for them to listen to her heart and to check her pulse,” says Baker.
As Baker continues to develop the Nola series (three more books are set to be published starting next year), she is developing a specific structure to help kids understand what NPs do. Using the Nola mascot, stickers, activity books, and the stories themselves, Baker connects with elementary school kids in schools, camps, and groups.
As the program is taken to teens in high school, Baker finds it just easy to talk to them about nursing as a career. “It’s engaging the next generation into the world of advanced practice nursing,” says Baker.
A new $50 million initiative to build on the excellence and diversity of the faculty at Yale University was announced last fall. The initiative, backed by the Provost’s Faculty Development Fund, will provide up to half of the salary for three years to support faculty who enrich diversity or an aspect of strategic importance at Yale.
Provost Ben Polak and Professor Richard Bribiescas, deputy provost for faculty development and diversity, have provided a recent update on the ongoing initiative. The inaugural year of the initiative supported 26 faculty members and a number of schools at Yale including Nursing and Public Health amongst several other fields of study.
Yale’s goal for the initiative is to recruit and retain the best faculty and several deans at the university have already said that the initiative significantly contributed to their recruiting efforts over the past year. Ann Kurth, Dean of the Yale School of Nursing (YSN), wants to develop a nursing faculty with a range of diversity and expertise. YSN believes that a diverse and inclusive faculty is the answer to a strong and productive culture in its school and a healthier society overall.
The Diversity and Excellence Initiative will also expand beyond faculty recruiting to support a diverse student body. A new Dean’s Emerging Scholars Program will select 15 incoming PhD students as Emerging Scholars Fellows and 10 PhD students to receive Emerging Scholars Research Awards. Yale will also be launching a new faculty program, Diversity & Education Series: Inclusive Pedagogy in Action, which promotes inclusive teaching.
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.
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.