ST. LOUIS -- Saint Louis University School of Nursing has received a $900,000 federal grant to increase the number of students who are minorities or from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds graduate from the baccalaureate nursing (BSN) program.
The three-year grant is from the Health Resources & Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to improving access to health services and developing the health care workforce.
“Nurses spend more time assessing and managing patients than any other health care professional,” said Teri Murray, Ph.D., dean of Saint Louis University School of Nursing and co-principal investigator on the initiative. "Nurses from racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to provide care that reflects the customs of the diverse cultural groups they represent, which can make patients feel more comfortable in asking health questions."
The School of Nursing is collaborating on the grant with the regional Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program, an academic-community partnership dedicated to developing and supporting the health care workforce, which is in the department of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
The goal, said co-principal investigator David Pole, deputy director of AHEC at SLU, is to implement practical strategies that help students overcome obstacles to becoming nurses that historically have made it difficult for them to succeed.
“Our first hurdle is introducing the multiple health career options available, with a specific focus on nursing careers to local high school students,” Pole said. “AHEC programs work with a variety of schools. Some students attend schools that don’t offer the rigorous math and science education they need to be successful. Others might have the educational background but the schools have limited or no programs that introduce careers in nursing.”
The SLU School of Nursing and AHEC program will collaborate with the Archdiocese of St. Louis to create programs in multiple Catholic high schools in St. Louis. AHEC will expand academic enrichment, enhance skills building and create health career orientation programs at Archdiocesan high schools that historically graduate minority or disadvantaged students who continue their education at Saint Louis University and other institutions
The high school initiative will help students explore health careers and teach study, problem solving and life skills. In addition, the high school students will come to the SLU Medical Center campus for hands-on learning, shadow SLU nursing students and learn about careers in nursing.
“Our goal is to attract these students to Saint Louis University, and help them achieve academic success,” Pole says.
Consequently, support continues when the students become part of the SLU community.
“While going to college can be an adjustment for any student, it frequently is even tougher for a student who is the first in his or her family to make the higher education journey,” Pole said.
“Many schools wait until students begin to struggle to send a lifeline. We know from experience that’s often too late. We have to be proactive, with services in place that reinforce study skills, help students stay organized, give extra academic help when necessary, and support them in feeling connected to the SLU and health professions community.”
To head off difficulties before they even begin, SLU School of Nursing and AHEC programs will collaborate with SLU's Student Success Center to enhance access to resources and add support services to remove obstacles that could discourage students from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds from graduating and becoming nurses. Additionally, the grant includes scholarships for students in their junior and senior years and support for supplemental skills building to prepare for the nursing licensure exam.
While students have the background and knowledge to succeed, sometimes they don’t do well on tests.
“Students can learn how to take a standardized test by practicing. We will offer supplemental test preparation – in-depth review of the materials, intensive practice, study sessions and step-by-step guidance to help students succeed,” Murray said.
“We not only will teach students what they need to know to be top-notch nurses, but how to demonstrate that they have the knowledge when it comes to passing their licensing test.”
Founded in 1928, Saint Louis University School of Nursing has achieved a national reputation for its innovative and pioneering programs. Offering bachelor's, master's and doctoral nursing programs, its faculty members are nationally recognized for their teaching, research and clinical expertise.