A shortage of minority nurses: a national campaign

A shortage of minority nurses: a national campaign – Editorial

Sallie Tucker-Allen

The shortage of nurses is a cyclical event–occurring every ten or fifteen years or so. As with any crisis, there are opportunities for positive and/or negative changes. Being ever the optimist, I see the national shortage of nurses as a positive event–one in which nurses can dialogue with other stakeholders in the health care arena to bring about long range changes which will have a positive impact upon the health care of consumers.

Being one of the participants in the Call to the Nursing Profession conference which took place September 8-11, 2001 in Reston, Virginia, I was a member of the Education domain or group which was told to agree on one goal in terms of how education could alleviate the nursing shortage. Tackling the issue head on–as is my style–I noted that nursing first needs to solve the “entry into practice issue” which has dogged our heels since the inception of the associate degree nursing programs in the fifties. My contention was and still is that the public is confused with having three levels of nurses practicing as “the professional nurse”. With three of the nine participants being from associate degree programs, this threw the group into a dither. It took quite some time amidst heated discussion before we were able to get past this point and agree on how we might phase our one goal. Instead we hedged, and put forth two goals–it did not work. Education was the only group which was told by the larger body to which we had to report that we had to return to our group and come back with one goal to which all participants espoused and/or pledged to support. Compromise involves losses; but unless we are able to compromise very little gets done. After more heated discussion, we arrived at a goal of looking at the congruence between societal needs and nursing education and clarify levels of education practice and roles. The understanding that meeting societal needs meant that we would work towards increasing the number of minority nurses in the profession.

All schools of nursing are being asked to support the efforts of the coalition and to increase the number of minority students and minority faculty teaching in these programs. This is a national effort and can only succeed if all schools appreciate why increasing the number of minority faculty/students is so important to the health and welfare of our nation. In the minority communities, many of our most prevalent and devastating diseases are running rampant. According to the Surgeon General’s-report, minority groups lead all indices in the prevalence of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other major health disorders. It is also known that minority health care workers return to their communities to provide health care. With the current minority nurse work force aging, graying and retiring, there will be fewer minority nurses working in these minority communities. This would have a further detrimental effect on the health care of residents in these communities. Agreeing to make diligent efforts to increase minority enrollment in schools of nursing and to increase minority faculty teaching in these institutions is a good thing: In the next issue of the Minority Nurse Newsletter, I will discuss what a small school in an urban minority university is doing to meet this challenge.

Dr. Tucker-Allen is founder of the Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Inc. (ABNF) and is Founding Editor of The ABNF Journal, official journal of the Association.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Tucker Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group