St. Louis U. Addresses Nursing Shortages, Boosts Diversity with Scholarships

Posted By Eliana Osborn on August 29, 2016 at 5:35 pm
St. Louis U. Addresses Nursing Shortages, Boosts Diversity with Scholarships

St. Louis University has received more than $2 million in federal funds to pay for nursing scholarships for disadvantaged students over the next three and a half years. This effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and similar scholarship programs at other schools are addressing several issues facing the profession, all at once.

In the first year of the grant, SLU will provide 20 scholarships—10 for freshmen and 10 for sophomores. Mentoring also is part of the award, important as nursing is a high pressure program and career. Moving forward, high school students will be recruited specifically with those coming from disadvantaged campuses being targeted.

Why? One of the issues addressed by the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 Future of Nursing report is diversity. There are both gender and racial disparities in nursing students compared to the general U.S. population. For example, men made up just 12% of those in pre-licensure programs in 2015. Whites students are about 10% more prevalent in nursing programs than in the population, with fewer African-American and Latinos students.

The current population of registered nurses is overwhelmingly white, at nearly 75%. The ratio is more representative among the rising generation, with just 61% white students. Diversity of the nursing workforce is important because of the diversity of those being cared for. As Campaign for Action explains, “A nursing workforce that reflects the diversity of the country’s communities and populations will lead to better understanding of the many elements that affect a person’s health and emotional well-being and, ultimately, to improved interactions and treatment.”

Making a good bet on nursing

Another important aspect of the scholarships – they form a path that leads to jobs. Many of the most popular degrees in college today do not match up with high demand jobs. In the face of education costs, student loan repayment, and the strain of finding employment, incentives to get students into the fields where they can find post-graduation success makes a lot of sense.

There are 3.6 million registered nurses in the United States, with millions more nursing assistants, caregivers, and other related healthcare professionals. With an aging population, the demand for these nurses is only growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a huge need for licensed practical nurses, with jobs available in residential treatment or in homes.

Nursing is not an easy profession, but for those with an eye to caring for others, especially those who thought they wouldn’t be able to afford nursing school, scholarships such as those being offered at St. Louis University could make a difference. That the scholarships also would help create a more diverse caregiving force in the United States is another real bonus.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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