Empowering diverse students, breaking down cultural barriers

Partnership with regional institutions aims to increase diversity among pediatric nurses

A partnership between Cincinnati Children’s and regional institutions, including the UC College of Nursing, is supporting associate degree nursing students through their two-year program and a successive bachelor’s program to improve access and care for minority and medically underserved populations. The project was initially supported by a UC Urban Pathway Nursing Workforce Diversity grant submitted by the college’s Associate Professor and Director of UC’s RN to BSN online program, Becky Lee, PhD, RN, and Senior Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Krista Maddox, EdD.  

Cincinnati Children’s, ranked first in the nation among pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, linked with UC College of Nursing, UC Blue Ash (UCBA) and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (CSTCC) to develop and implement the Cincinnati Children’s Scholars program, meant to increase diversity among bachelor’s-prepared pediatric nurses. In May, 10 nurses in the scholars program’s first cohort graduated from UC’s RN to BSN online program.

Research shows racial and ethnic diversity in the nursing workforce leads to better access and care for patients. A lack of nursing diversity reinforces cultural barriers related to language, health provider bias and clinical uncertainty.

“These students understand the needs of diverse patients and are determined to be part of the solution,” says Jennifer Ellis, DNP, professor at UCBA nursing program and Cincinnati Children’s Scholars program liaison. “This program provides them the support to make this happen and makes our students feel wanted and seen.”

cincinnati children's hospital entrance

UCBA and CSTCC nursing students are introduced to the scholars program during their pediatric rotation in the first year of their associate degree. Program applications and scholar selection take place in the fall of their second year, and the program kicks off in mid-November. From there, they receive mentorship from Cincinnati Children’s nurses and work at the health system as patient care assistants. After graduating and passing the licensure exam, scholars are hired as RNs at Cincinnati Children’s and receive tuition reimbursement as they pursue their bachelor’s degree online at UC.

“Minority nursing students tend to be more represented in two-year associate programs, which are less expensive than the four-year bachelor’s and allow for earlier workforce entry. However, many organizations, including Cincinnati Children’s, favor hiring bachelor’s-prepared nurses,” says Becky Lee. “Creating opportunities for the advancement of associate-prepared nurses is crucial for increasing representation in the profession.”

To enter the scholars program, applicants submit an essay that addresses why they are interested in pediatric nursing and the positive impact they hope to make as an RN at Cincinnati Children’s. A faculty recommendation and a minimum GPA are also required. Since it began in 2020, the program has accepted 30 students through its three cohorts to date.

“By supporting minority students interested in pediatric nursing throughout their associate and bachelor’s programs, the Cincinnati Children’s Scholars program has created a pipeline of racially and ethnically underrepresented nurses,” says Barb Tofani, MSN, senior vice president of patient services, at Cincinnati Children’s. “We want our patients to see themselves reflected in us — to know they can grow up to be nurses, doctors and administration leaders, too.”

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