While many nursing schools around the country have successfully increased their enrollments as well as the racial and ethnic diversity of their student populations, there continues to be a severe shortage of nursing faculty–and especially minority faculty. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2005), fewer than 10% of the nation’s nursing educators are people of color.

To address this urgent need for more culturally diverse nursing faculty, the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College, an online college based in Trenton, N.J., received a $600,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish the Minority Nurse Educator program. Now entering its third year, the program provides experienced minority nursing faculty with the opportunity to enhance their skills and expand their expertise by preparing them for online teaching. With minority nursing educators in such short supply, training them to teach in distance learning programs will help make this scarce resource available to greater numbers of students than ever before.

Participants complete a 32-week Certificate in Distance Education Program (CDEP), then teach a 12-week online nursing course at Thomas Edison State College, under the guidance of an experienced mentor from the School of Nursing. Upon completion of the program, the minority faculty are ready to use their new distance teaching skills to introduce and expand online education programs at their own local institutions and across the nation.

Establishing the Need

In 2001-2002, Thomas Edison State College implemented its online RN-to-BSN program. Demographic data from the student population indicated that 25% of the students were racial and ethnic minorities. At that time, the program was open only to New Jersey residents. (It has been offered nationally since 2004.) The percentage of minority nurses in New Jersey at this time was 23%, which indicated that minority students were well represented at the School of Nursing.

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Because of the high percentage of students of color in the program, we wanted to attract a similar percentage of minority faculty who could serve as mentors and role models. Our outreach efforts consisted of professional calls to minority nurses known to the dean, calls to several historically black nursing programs and requests for referrals from personal contacts. In the early days of the program, when the number of students enrolled was fewer than 250, these recruitment methods were sufficient. However, as enrollment grew, we found it increasingly difficult to maintain a similar minority mentor-to-student ratio using only these three methods.

Thomas Edison State College was already training nurse educators in online pedagogy, so it occurred to the dean that the same training could be offered to minority nursing faculty recruited as mentors for the online RN-to-BSN program. The idea for the grant was born. Once they became certified in distance education, the minority educators could be utilized not only by Thomas Edison State College but by any nursing program in the nation with online capability, regardless of geographical location. In addition, we felt that this could be a potential way to address the faculty retirement brain drain by enabling minority nurse educators to extend their tenure in the profession past the traditional retirement age.

To invite experienced minority nurse educators to participate in the CDEP, the School of Nursing used several recruiting strategies, including announcements in the nursing media, one-on-one recruitment at major national minority nursing association conferences, and advertisements in national and local newspapers and Web sites. In the first year, 19 educators were accepted into the program, with a 75% completion rate. For this first group of participants, the mentored online teaching experience is now in progress and will continue throughout this year.

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A Growing Diversity

Summer 2007.Summer 2007

Of the 15 first-year participants who completed the CDEP, 67% are African American, 13% are Asian, 13% are Hispanic and 7% are American Indian (see Figure 1). Seventy-five percent of these nurse educators hold a master’s degree in nursing and 25% hold doctoral degrees (see Figure 2). The doctorally prepared candidates are from the African American and American Indian ethnic groups.

Geographically, our first-year grant participants come from many different parts of the country, including Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The majority are from the East Coast (see Figure 3).

As the program became more widely known, we received many additional inquiries and applications. The second-year cohort of grant participants consists of 42% master’s-prepared nurse educators and 58% who are doctorally prepared. The geographic range has expanded as well, with new participants from Alabama, California, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.

We are currently constructing a database of grant participants who have completed the CDEP through the Minority Nurse Educator program. Information from this database will be shared upon request with schools of nursing across the United States who are interested in utilizing experienced minority online educators to increase their faculty diversity.

To promote collaboration and yearly networking, the HRSA grant has also enabled Thomas Edison State College to establish an annual Distinguished Lectureship on Cultural Diversity, which is hosted by the School of Nursing every fall. The first annual event, held last October 11, included speakers such as Kem Louie, PhD, RN, FAAN, past president of the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, and Hilda Richards, EdD, RN, FAAN, past president of the National Black Nurses Association. Information about the 2007 lectureship will be available in local and national nursing publications and on our Web site at www.tesc.edu/nursing/hrsa/php.

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In summary, the Minority Nurse Educator program has proven to be successful. Nursing educators from across the country have demonstrated support for the concept of sharing minority nursing faculty in cyberspace to increase diversity in the nursing profession. The program has drawn highly talented minority nursing educators from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and geographical locations, and the number of educators who have expressed interest in participating has increased. As of this writing, some of our grant participants are already applying what they have learned in the CDEP course, and the feedback from the grant participants in general has been very positive (see sidebar).

Experienced Educators Invited

The third-year cohort of grant participants in the Minority Nurse Educator program will begin their CDEP courses this summer and fall. If you are an experienced nurse educator of color who is interested in expanding your skills into online teaching and course development, Thomas Edison State College School of Nursing would like to hear from you.

We are looking for candidates with at least two years experience teaching in a baccalaureate nursing program or equivalent. A minimum of a master’s degree in nursing is required; a doctorate in an appropriate field is preferred. Please send a CV to [email protected].

Acknowledgment

Funding for the Minority Nurse Educator program and annual Distinguished Lectureship was made possible (in part) by grant award # DIIHP05199 from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Health Resources and Services Administration, nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

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