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.
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