DARTMOUTH – University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s College of Nursing won a $1.8 million grant in July from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to diversify the nursing workforce in the region over the next four years.
About $500,000 of the funding will provide need-based aid to area students who want to pursue nursing as a profession.
Dr. Barbara Weatherford, program director of the diversity program, will team with colleagues from Bristol Community College to study admission practices at the Fall River and New Bedford campuses to recruit applicants mirroring the population in those areas.
This project focuses on New Bedford due to the city’s changing demographics, now estimated at 16.7 percent Hispanic and 6.4 percent Black/African American, according to 2015 U.S. Census data. The goal is to bring nursing enrollment in line with these demographic trends by promoting nursing as a career and supporting admitted students throughout their college career so they graduate on time and fully prepared to excel at regional hospitals and other health care organizations.
“The need exists for a more-diverse workforce to address the health needs of the community,” Weatherford said. “Building a health care workforce that reflects the diversity of the community will strengthen the delivery of health care across the region, and help the region retain talent. We also anticipate learning from our students about changing the world, one nurse at a time.”
Weatherford said the nursing program accepts about 120 students each year. With the grant, and the insight from their studies, they’ll invite about 50 students to be among that number.
“They have really responded well,” Weatherford said.
One major objective of the project is to develop holistic admissions at both campuses, a strategy used in medical and dental schools to ensure talented students from diverse backgrounds are identified, recruited and supported.
The initiative will build upon ongoing outreach to middle and high school students through the university’s Upward Bound program.
The grant will also fund academic coaching for the students.
“We’re going to really target maximum impact,” Weatherford said.
Rob Borkowski is a PBN contributing writer.