At Rowan Regional Medical Center, a private, not-for-profit acute care hospital in Salisbury, N.C., only 4.6% of the RN staff are men and even fewer (2%) are African-American or Hispanic. It’s a situation that mirrors the demographic imbalance of the nation as a whole: According to the most recent (2000) National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (published by the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, Division of Nursing) only 5% of the nation’s total RN population is African-American and a paltry 2% are Hispanic. Yet when you look at the most recent U.S. Census figures, Hispanics and African Americans account for 13% and 12% of America’s total population, respectively.

Rowan Regional and three other North Carolina hospitals have recently launched an aggressive initiative to increase the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of their nursing and health professions workforces, thanks to a major grant from The Duke Endowment, one of the nation’s largest private foundations. The four partner hospitals will divide $463,500 from the Endowment this year, with an additional $477,838 in grants expected over the next two years. The other three hospitals in the partnership are Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir, Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro and Heritage Hospital in Tarboro.

According to Yvonne Dixon, RN, an African-American nurse who is the head of diversity recruiting at Rowan Regional, the grants will enable the hospitals to launch or expand a variety of programs designed to recruit more men and people of color into nursing and allied health careers. Some of these programs include:

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• The creation of diversity councils at each facility, responsible for evaluating “what is needed within our workforce to increase our diversity.”

• Outreach to students at local colleges, community colleges and high schools, including an ongoing mentoring program designed to stimulate students’ interest in health care careers, from nursing to allied health to hospital management.

• A summer “Camp Med” program, in which high school students will visit the hospitals for job shadowing.

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