Diversity in Nursing Education

As a child, Paule V. Joseph, MSN, CRNP, CTN-B, took pleasure in helping people, found science classes riveting and became captivated by the human body.

She called volunteering in high school at a nursing home in her home country of Venezuela a “fascinating experience.”

It was during this experience that Joseph realized the full extent of what nurses did.

“In fact, when I reflect on that time, it was then that I developed my desire to work in the medical field,” she said. “Life has a way of bringing you back where you need to be and to your true calling.”

At age 16, after graduating high school, Joseph moved to the U.S. in pursuit of an education in the field of nursing. She is currently a third year PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania and a T32 Predoctoral Fellow at the Centers for Global Women’s Health and Health Equity Research at the school.


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‘I Want to Inspire’

Joseph is just as passionate about caring for the sick as she is about research and teaching. Prior to starting her PhD program, she taught undergraduate nursing students at Hostos Community College, located in the South Bronx, NY, an institution with an ethnically-diverse student body.

“I taught Fundamentals of Nursing Practice at Hostos and Advanced Nursing Research at Regis College. While at Penn, I have served as a teaching assistant for stellar senior faculty from whom I learned new skills that can be applied in the classroom with a diverse student body,” she said, noting that mentorship is a gift that has benefitted her personally.

It is largely because of the mentoring of several “exceptional” professors that Joseph is inspired to achieve her goals-obtaining a PhD in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania represents a major step toward the fulfillment of her professional goal that combines all of her passions: nursing, research, education and service.

She looks forward to accomplishing her short-term goal of obtaining a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing so that she can accomplish her long-term goal in nursing education to be a faculty member at a research-intensive university where she can pursue a program of research, teaching and mentorship for minority students.

“I want to inspire others to make most of their nursing talents, and to encourage innovation and nurturing among the future generation of nurse scientists. I would like to be a role model for new nurses and I hope to make an impact globally as well,” she said.

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TEACHABLE MOMENTS: Paule V. Joseph is a 2013 Johnson & Johnson/AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholar pursuing a PhD in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught beginning nursing courses at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, N.Y. and advance practice nurses at Regis College. photo courtesy Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A recent Johnson & Johnson/AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholar, Joseph said this opportunity has not only helped her financially, but has also provided her with new skills and career development activities.

The J&J/AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship provides financial assistance to underrepresented minority nursing students, allowing them to complete a graduate program and assume teaching roles.

Scholarships are awarded competitively to students in master’s and doctoral nursing programs who commit to teaching in a school of nursing after graduation. Besides supplying $18,000 in financial support, the program also provides leadership development and mentoring to future faculty.

In 2007, AACN approached leaders with the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future about creating a program to address two of the professions’ highest priorities: the growing shortage of nurse educators and increasing the population of nurse faculty from minority backgrounds.

“AACN actively promotes this program to promising graduate students who demonstrate the potential for long-term contributions to the field of nursing education,” said Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Preparing more minority faculty will help to improve the nation’s ability to provide culturally competent education to an increasingly diverse student population.”

Open only to individuals from racial/ethnic minority groups, this program supports full-time nursing students in doctoral or master’s degree programs, with a preference given to those completing a doctorate.

The program includes mentorship and leadership development components to assure successful completion of graduate studies and preparation for a future faculty role. Scholars are invited to attend AACN’s annual Faculty Development Conference to help acclimate scholarship winners to the teaching role.

Kirschling said applicants must also demonstrate:

  • The potential to contribute to the advancement of nursing education; 

  • Leadership potential; 

  • A commitment to mentoring, recruiting, and retaining future minority nurses; and 

  • Evidence of the school’s commitment to the applicant’s academic career and professional development. 

Five new scholarships are awarded each year in August. In addition, second-year funding is awarded to Scholars in good standing who are nearing the end of their degree programs. Though second-year funding is not guaranteed, it has been supplied by Johnson & Johnson for each cohort of students since the program began.


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A Culturally-Diverse Workforce

Kirschling said nursing’s academic leaders have long recognized the strong connection between a culturally-diverse nursing workforce and the ability to provide quality, patient-centered care.

In fact, according to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, policy advisors to Congress and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, diversifying the nursing profession is essential to meeting the healthcare needs of the nation and reducing health disparities that exist among many underserved populations.

However, AACN data show that only 12.3% of full-time nurse faculty come from minority backgrounds.

“A lack of representative educators may send a signal to potential students that nursing does not value diversity. Students looking for academic role models to encourage and enrich their learning are often frustrated in their attempts to find mentors and a community of support,” said Dr. Kirschling. “Clearly, we have a mandate to support and encourage nurses from minority groups in their quest to seek advanced degrees and to assume leadership roles in nursing education.”

Joseph also believes it is critically important for the nursing workforce to be as diverse as the patients it cares for.

“The impact of a diverse nursing workforce goes beyond the effects in the clinical setting,” she said. “I am glad that AACN is among the organizations that recognize the importance and the growing need of having a diverse workforce-not only at the bedside, but in research and education.”


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‘A Way of Life’

Since its launch, the Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars program has become one of the nation’s premiere, privately-funded initiatives focused on diversifying the nurse faculty population.

To date, 40 graduate nursing students from 22 states have received funding through this program, including 23 African American, 10 Hispanic, four Asian and three American-Indian students. Five of the scholarship recipients have been men, another under-represented group in nursing.

“Given the teaching requirement that is attached to each scholarship awarded, this program has generated at least 80 teaching years, in addition to preparing a new cadre of faculty who will have long careers as nurse educators, mentors and leaders,” said Kirschling.

She remarked that if providing culturally competent care is a goal everyone can support, then diversifying the pipeline of nursing students into baccalaureate and higher degree programs must be a national priority.

“Emphasis must be placed on preparing minority nurses at advanced levels to ensure that these individuals have a full voice in shaping the future of the nursing profession as leaders, mentors and role models,” she commented.

Joseph observed that she is grateful to be given an opportunity to grow as a nursing scholar.

“Nursing is more than a job for me. It is a way of life. There is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that you were part of a bigger process of caring for someone who is sick or teaching undergraduate students-knowing that your actions made a difference and that you have touched a person’s life,” she concluded.

Applications for the 2014-2015 Minority Faculty Scholars Program are now being accepted through May 1, 2014. For more information and to download an application, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/scholarships/minority.

Beth Puliti is a freelance writer.

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