Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Rolanda Johnson, PhD’98, received the Vanderbilt University Joseph A. Johnson Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor Award at the university’s Spring Faculty Assembly.
The award recognizes a faculty member who has proactively nurtured an academic environment where everyone feels valued and where diversity is celebrated. It is named for Joseph A. Johnson Jr., the first African American to earn a Vanderbilt bachelor’s degree and the first to earn a doctoral degree.
In recognizing Rolanda Johnson with the award, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier says, “Rolanda’s experiences in nursing — as a clinician, educator, researcher, and administrator — inspired her to make a difference in the lives of those who experience health disparities and inequities and are often overlooked. Her passion is educating nurses to better meet the healthcare needs of all populations and delivering high-quality, culturally sensitive care to all patients. Among her efforts at the School of Nursing was advocating for holistic admissions, contributing to more diverse enrollment.”
Johnson has positively impacted equity, diversity, and inclusion on regional, national, and international levels. She serves as membership chair for the Tuskegee University National Nursing Alumni Association, was the inaugural chair of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s DEI Leadership Network (DEILN), mentors for the AACN Diversity Leadership Institute, and a member of the American Nurses Association National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing Education Work Group. She co-founded Nashville’s chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. Johnson also served on the U.S. Pharmacopeia Health Equity Advisory Group.
At Vanderbilt School of Nursing, Johnson helps faculty create inclusive curricula and classrooms, offers guidance to student affinity groups, and is exceptionally skilled at recruitment, retention, and inclusion. Her research and scholarship focus on increasing EDI in nursing education and assisting vulnerable populations.
“Most recently, Dr. Johnson co-developed and co-directed the inaugural Vanderbilt Academy for Diverse Emerging Nurse Leaders, a one-week immersive for nurses who have been in leadership roles for less than five years,” says Pamela R. Jeffries, PhD, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH, dean of Vanderbilt School of Nursing. “This was an amazing week for 18 fellows from academia and healthcare systems all over the country. Many described the program as ’life-changing.’ The academy is well poised to be sustainable and in the long-term, will help to mitigate the diversity disparities evident in nursing leadership.”
Senior Associate Dean for Academics Mavis Schorn, PhD, FACNM, FNAP, FAAN, nominated Johnson for the leadership award. “She has advanced equity, diversity, and inclusivity by developing a strategic plan focusing on both recruitment of diverse individuals while also creating a welcoming environment where everyone feels like they belong,” Schorn wrote. “She led the efforts to create a diversity statement for the school and later led efforts to update it to include antiracism language. She has worked with all the admission committees to ensure the admission process is holistic.”
Johnson will carry the Joseph A. Johnson, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor title for one year.
“This award was a wonderful surprise,” she says. “I am humbled to receive this honor. While I am the honoree, the VUSN family deserves accolades for ‘WE’ have accomplished much and will continue to be leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion in nursing and healthcare.”
Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is holding its annual Diversity Impact Conference June 8-9. The Diversity Impact Conference brings together renowned thought leaders and speakers to increase awareness of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the healthcare workforce, particularly for those working in underserved and rural communities.
This year, the conference will be available for attendees outside FNU for the first time.
The 2023 Diversity Impact Conference is via Zoom. This year’s conference theme is “Better Together: Advancing a Culture of Identity and Belonging in Healthcare.” The two-day event will feature keynote presentations from nationally recognized diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders. Additional sessions will include panel discussions, breakout sessions, and time for reflection.
The opening keynote address is by Dr. Tia Brown McNair, Vice President of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and Executive Director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers at the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in Washington, D.C.
On the second day of the conference, the keynote speaker will be Rebekka Eshler, National President of the Transgender American Veterans Association in Washington, D.C.
All speaker bios and the full conference schedule are available here.
The learning outcomes attendees can expect to take away from the Diversity Impact Conference include the following:
Identify specific strategies to create a culture of belonging amongst peers and the larger community
Discuss the causes behind healthcare disparities and their effect on creating a culture of belonging
Reflect on ways to engage in spaces to promote diversity in identity effectively
Practice ways to build collaborative communities
Students attending any institution can register for the conference for free. All others can register at the registration price of $99 until the day before the event. For more information about the 2023 Diversity Impact Conference and to register, visit https://frontier.edu/diversity-impact/.
“We are extremely excited about the 2023 Diversity Impact Conference,” says FNU Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Paula Alexander-Delpech, Ph.D., PMHNP-BC, APRN. “The Conference gets better each and every year, and we are putting the finishing touches on the plan for this year’s sessions. We are most excited, however, about being able to include more attendees this year. As we grow this important event, we want to invite leaders and students from some of our area universities to join us. This event is all about collaboration, learning, and growing. I’m confident that it will benefit any university, department, or individual.”
Nursing Diversity Champions exemplify a commitment to diversity and inclusion across accredited nursing programs and healthcare institutions across the U.S. A select group of colleges, universities, and healthcare institutions across the nation have committed to recruit and retain diverse students, faculty, and clinicians on MinorityNurse.com and NursingDiversity.com and we celebrate their efforts and dedication to diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Frontier Nursing University (FNU) named Dr. Paula Alexander-Delpech, Ph.D., PMHNP-BC, APRN, as its Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO).
Previously, Dr. Alexander-Delpech served as the Interim CDIO since January and guided the planning and programming for FNU’s 12th annual Diversity Impact Conference held in June.
Dr. Alexander-Delpech serves as co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the Faculty, Staff, and Preceptor Development and Retention sub-committee of the DEI Task Force.
Performing at the Highest Level
“Dr. Alexander-Delpech has performed at the highest level as our Interim CDIO,” says FNU President Dr. Susan Stone, CNM, DNSc, FAAN, FACNM. “We know she will continue to provide the direction, passion, and leadership necessary to further the essential work of FNU’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She has tremendous energy and has brought forth a number of new initiatives to build upon our existing DEI efforts, which are so important to the future of healthcare.”
Nurse Educator DEI Faculty Fellowship
Dr. Alexander-Delpech presented “The Development of A Faculty DEI Fellows Program” at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Diversity Leadership Institute. Under her leadership, FNU plans to launch a Nurse Educator DEI Faculty Fellowship program this fall. Eight faculty members will be selected as Fellows and will attend a 12-week DEI training and then be assigned at least four more faculty whom they will coach for 12 weeks.
The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion oversee the development of five new student interest groups (SIGs), which hold their first meetings in June. The five SIGs are International Students in Nursing, LGBTQIA+ Students in Nursing, Men in Nursing, Military/Veterans in Nursing, and Students of Color in Nursing.
Delivering Equity and Diversity in Healthcare
“It has been a pleasure working with Dr. Alexander-Delpech,” says FNU Dean of Nursing Joan Slager, DNP, CNM, FACNM, FAAN. “She is passionate about creating opportunities for our faculty and our students to grow in their expertise in teaching about and delivering equitable healthcare.”
“I am so honored to accept the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Frontier Nursing University,” Dr. Alexander-Delpech says. “We always think about DEI as it pertains to our curriculum or profession, but when people start talking about it in their personal lives, that means people are making changes. The ripple effect is happening. At FNU, we are ahead of the game. When we talk about DEI work, FNU has surpassed a lot of other universities.”
As the nation continues to grapple with the wide-ranging effects of racism, the nursing industry continues to take steps to address disparities, inequalities, and racism. Last summer, the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) ramped up the AMSN DEI Campaign, motivated by the killing of George Floyd.
Terri Hinkley, EdD, MBA, BSN, RN, and chief executive officer of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) and Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB), says Floyd’s killing troubled her deeply, leading her to question if she had done everything she could to make the world as safe and inclusive as possible. Hinkley spoke with the presidents of AMSN and MSNCB and with her family and then wrote, My Reckoning, an op-ed expressing her commitment to actively working to combat racism.
While the program helps nurses learn about DEI, it’s also a way for them to build competence, says Hinkley, especially in areas they may not be familiar with or have a deeper understanding of. “We do not understand the norms, practices, and requirements of cultures we did not grow up with or in,” she says. “By focusing on building competency, we are striving to take away the ‘blame and shame’ that often surrounds these issues and discussions. Let us start with the basic principle that everyone wants to be respectful of others and build on that to help them understand and be able to take action to make that happen.”
75% of the nurses that completed the survey reported that they wished to have a better understanding of topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
92% reported that it is important for their national professional association to take action regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and lead efforts for its members.
46% reported experiencing harassment or discrimination because of issues of race, class, gender, age, religion, culture, sexuality, or ability.
63% witnessed harassment or discrimination.
DEI work is sometimes uncomfortable, as Hinkley noted, and that’s why it’s important to give nurses the tools to have discussions around difficult topics. “We genuinely believe that we, as nurses, start from a position of caring and compassion,” she says. “We believe that every nurse wants the best possible outcome for their patient, and for their teammates to be respected and supported as an integral part of the team.”
As nurses learn more and become more intentional with their DEI work, they can more effectively advocate for those around them—whether teammates or patients. “DEI isn’t a one and done initiative,” says Hinkley. “It is a journey that will only have its beginning in the first 18 to 24 months. This is a lifelong learning initiative, one that AMSN is embracing and committing to.”
Hinkley says AMSN is committed to making this process inclusive and developed several different activities intended to help nurses be able to identify their own biases, or those within their institutions, and develop solutions to combat them.
Members can participate in a six-module educational certificate program in which the first module (the first module is offered at no cost to members) will focus on why the program is important. The remaining modules will allow deep dives into the areas of greatest discrimination, such as race, sexual orientation and gender identity, disabilities, age, and culture and religion, says Hinkley.
As nurses begin to move through the process and gain a new understanding, Hinkley says stepping back for the big picture is essential. “AMSN wants to build a culture of inquiry, where our nurses can start to question why we do things the way we do, or why I believe the things I believe,” she says. “Is there a different perspective that might shape how I approach a situation, or patient, or problem? Am I intentional in my actions, or am I just doing what I was taught and the way it has always been done? It is all about opening conversations, with yourself and others.”
Gaining competence and new perspectives will transfer into better nursing practice, higher nursing standards, and patient care in very specific ways, she says, including
as individual employees who remain competitive and effective in a changing workforce
as employees of organizations who will be DEI ambassadors to their organizations after completing the certificate program
as members of the largest segment of the healthcare workforce who will increase DEI competence across the healthcare sector
as primary providers of patient care in the nation whocan address the inequities in patient care
Hinkley noted that even with a DEI focus, real-life experiences can be uncomfortable. “I would like to share an example I experienced recently,” she says. “Someone I know came out as non-binary, changed their name (I will call them Storm), and their pronouns. Another friend (I will call Alice) was so distressed she would not be able to remember Storm’s pronouns because we have spent a lifetime of only having binary choices: he/him or she/her. ‘They’ sounds odd and feels odd, and we have a lifetime of using ‘they’ for more than one person. That results in dissonance and is incredibly challenging from a cognitive perspective. Alice is doing her best to be supportive and respectful and was so worried that she was going to forget and say the wrong pronoun. I tried to help Alice understand that if it were an honest mistake, Storm would understand, and they would not be offended. I tried to stress that Storm understands that we are all doing our best to be supportive and, in turn, have new things to learn as a result.”
As Hinkley notes, overnight change isn’t expected, but there are things nurses can do to help themselves move forward. “I think it is important to understand that no one expects perfection, they just expect the same respect and value that everyone else is given. What helped me was practicing. I practice using inclusive pronouns at every opportunity. I also challenge myself not to use binary pronouns, but rather to collectively refer to individuals I do not know as ‘they’ until I learn their preferred pronouns. I am not always successful, and just the other day I said ‘he or she’ when referring to a nurse in an example to a point I was making. I was gently corrected to ‘they’ and the conversation continued. Life-long learning is a hallmark of the nursing profession, and we embrace that in every other area of our lives, so why not this one?”
As nurses’ DEI work grows stronger, Hinkley says it will have a pervasive effect on nurses’ work, patient care, and the workplace in general. “Having the opportunity to improve health for all individuals would be the best possible outcome of this initiative and would bring me personal and professional joy,” says Hinkley. “I also feel very strongly about doing my part to contribute to the work environment for all nurses. I am keenly interested in issues regarding the work environment, and the human cost of caring to nurses and healthcare providers. There are so many wonderful aspects to nursing and being in the caring profession, but we do not all have the same experience at work, and I am excited to be able to improve the work experience for all nurses.”
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