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Keeping Minority Nurses at the Forefront of Care

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Minority Nurse Mentorship and Professional Enhancement Program advances cultural diversity in healthcare settings.

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In the face of the nursing shortage and an aging nurse workforce, attention on the recruitment, retention and leadership development of minority nurses can improve the nursing shortage and advance the transformation of cultural diversity in healthcare settings.

At the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), cultural diversity is vital to the future of our nursing program. The goal of UPMC's Minority Nurse Mentorship Program and Professional Enhancement Program is to identify, retain and enhance the professional development of minority nurses at the bedside and in leadership roles within the health system through the use of the five Cs - candor, compromise, confidence, complexity and champion - to effectively nurture meaningful professional relationships.

A multicultural nursing workforce must reflect the ethnic and cultural changes evidenced by the current and future patient populations. Cultural diversity is vital to the future of the nursing profession.

Low Minority Representation

In a Health Resources and Services Administration 2004 National Sample Survey of RNs, findings showed 81.8 percent of nurses were white, 4.2 percent were African-American and 1.7 percent were Hispanic.

UPMC, which employs more than 8,000 nurses, has recognized the value of diversity and has made great strides in the recruitment of minority nurses. We're now focused on retention and the leadership development of minority nurses. We need to address the disproportionate number of minority nurses in the nursing profession.

Our program objectives include:

  • increase the recruitment of new minority nurses;
  • lengthen the tenure of minority nurses already at UPMC;
  • showcase leadership development opportunities for minority nurses; and
  • assist with the recruitment, retention and graduation of minority students in the schools of nursing at UPMC.

The results of this program should increase minority nurse retention, reduce cost to our organization, increase number of minority nurse leaders and improve cultural competency in the care of a growing diverse patient population.

Overcoming Barriers

Unfortunately, there are obstacles, including lack of time, lack of awareness, limited number of minority graduate and experienced nurses, and lack of awareness of minority nurses on education and advancement opportunities.

We have developed strategies for an effective program, including a minority nurse advisory board to help eliminate these obstacles and allow minority nurses to move ahead. The board will participate at all levels across the health system and assist with strategic planning and decision making.

First Quarter Outcomes

The Minority Nurse Mentorship and Professional Enhancement Program has compiled some positive data since we established the program in 2001. An innovative approach to addressing these barriers was the creation of the Nursing Talent Round-Up Sessions. These sessions were staffed by members of nursing leadership who provided guidelines and coaching in the following areas: 

  • professional development;
  • résumé review;
  • one-on-one coaching by nursing executives;
  • formal education opportunities;
  • wellness screening;
  • leadership book sale.

Of the minority nurses surveyed who participated in the sessions: 

  •  more than 60 percent update their resumes;
  • 69 percent defined career goals;
  • 46 percent researched furthering their education;
  • 53 percent participated on hospital or system-wide committees;
  • 23 percent enrolled in a BSN program.

Future Goals

We have hired a diversity and inclusion officer and are in the process of creating the foundation for a nursing career center. Also in development is an outcomes measurement tool for hospital leaders. We are on the way to enhancing the careers of minority nurses and feel confident we can make some big strides in the future.

For years, minorities have been underserved in this profession. Our principles can be applied to new and experienced nurses, which will impact the nursing shortage and the profession as a whole.

Dawndra Jones vice president of workforce, planning & development at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Articles Archives

The email to contact me is

Dawndra Jones,  VP nursing workforce planning January 22, 2009
Pittsburgh, PA

Do you have refresher courses? How do I contact you directly?

Requel January 19, 2009


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