Many nurse educators know all the challenges their minority students face, and often finding new techniques for helping them succeed is foremost. On April 24, Western Carolina University will host “Supporting Academic Success for Diverse and Minority Students,” a nursing diversity conference that aims to teach new tools to help minority students succeed.

Keynote speakers include John Lowe, RN, PhD, FAAN, the John Wymer Distinguished Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn School of Nursing and one of only 20 Native American nurses with a doctorate of nursing, and Chief Jim Henson, former chief of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma and an international educator on substance abuse issues.

The conference is for educators and administrators from both hospitals and schools as well as nurses, says Sharon Metcalfe, EdD, MSN, RN, program director of the Nursing Network-Careers and Technology Mentoring Program (NN-CAT) and associate professor of nursing at Western Carolina University.

It’s for anyone who works with minority youth,” she says. “Nursing is a holistic profession and nurses have to be able to look at the body, mind, and soul. Teachers who are also nurses have to be able to do the same with their students.” Participants will learn ways to attract and retain minority students in the nursing field and learn techniques for dealing with some of the cultural barriers their students have beginning, continuing, or completing their nursing education.

Dr. Lowe developed the teaching circle model of teaching,” says Dr. Metcalfe. “The teaching circle model is used to help minority and native students around the world prevent and sway away from substance abuse.”

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Because substance abuse is a problem across generations and cultures, but particularly with minority and native youth, the talking circles approach helps students learn new ways to communicate. Participants, says Dr. Metcalfe, will learn specialized teaching techniques that will allow them to understand not only the pervasiveness of substance abuse, but also the barriers each student has in overcoming cultural or personal barriers to success.

In a talking circle, students sit with a facilitator and begin the tough work of sharing their stories by answering questions posed to the group. Emotions, motivations, and histories are shared slowly and in layers, so participants are comfortable talking about themselves and have the opportunity to hear the stories of other participants.

The purpose is that teachers can then use the technique to help the students share and become more aware of their own habits and can help them turn away from substance abuse,” says Dr. Metcalfe.

Working with minority youth specifically reveals the certain challenges these groups face that can be very tough to both deal with on a daily basis and to overcome. “Dr. Lowe talks about barriers with family dynamics and a lack of support for education,” says Dr. Metcalfe. “Students are often the the first in their families to attend college or to finish high school.”

For anyone interested in attending the conference, please register here.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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