The National League of Nurses host Inaugural Conference

With grant funding from the National Institute on Minority Health & Health Disparities (NIMHD), the National League for Nursing this month brought together senior administrators, deans and directors of nursing, faculty, and students from six HBCUs—Historically Black Colleges and Universities—for a two-day invitational conference, “Action Coalition to Increase Diversity in Nursing by Strengthening HBCU Nursing Programs.” Participants from Dillard University, Hampton University, Howard University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical (NC A&T) State University, Winston-Salem State University, and the University of the District of Columbia met to explore:

  •     The value of HBCUs in promoting leadership in nursing
  •     Impact of workforce diversity on health care and role of HBCU schools of nursing
  •     Factors influencing the success of HBCU schools of nursing and student performance
  •     Action steps for the future

“Since 1942, when the NLN (then the NLNE) broke racial barriers in nursing by allowing Black nurses in the South full participatory membership at a time when many state organizations retained a ‘Whites Only’ policy, the NLN has been an inclusive organization, with diversity/inclusivity among the league’s fundamental core values,” remarked NLN CEO Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN. “I’m proud to say that in 21st-century America, the NLN has expanded its commitment to full diversity and inclusion to address differences in gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical ability, and age. The objectives of this groundbreaking conference reflect that spirit of innovation and dedication to maximizing the success of nursing programs born of the need to introduce diversity into higher education across the board.”

Added NLN President G. Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor and associate vice-chancellor for diversity and inclusion/chief diversity officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “I join Bev and Dr. Janice Brewington, the NLN’s chief program officer who organized this gathering with our funding partners, in noting the exciting possibilities HBCUs present for nursing education in the contemporary demographic landscape. These schools—once the principal means for providing postsecondary education to Black Americans—now represent a vital component of American higher education for students from all backgrounds. I look forward with great anticipation to what comes next, as the NLN lends its oversight and support to the strategic action steps conceived to advance the conference objectives.”

Nathan Stinson, Jr., PhD, MD, MPH, the director of the Division of Extramural Scientific Programs at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, also weighed in: “Efforts to diversify the nursing workforce remain a significant challenge for the nation. The National League for Nursing conference on strengthening HBCU nursing programs may be catalytic in the development of a strategic approach to recruit and retain racial/ethnic minority individuals in nursing programs.”

The conference program offered a mix of formal presentations; discussion-based convocations; and working sessions. The keynote, Dr. Charles Nelms, scholar at the Center for Postsecondary Research in the Department of Educational Leadership in Policy Studies at Indiana University, delivered his address on holistic strategies for strengthening HBCUs.

In the first of two plenary sessions, Dr. Sophia Russell, a captain in the US Public Health Service and director of the Division of Nursing and Public Health, Bureau of Health Workforce, in the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health & Human Services, spoke about HRSA initiatives in the health workforce and underserved communities. Later, NLN BOG Secretary Dr. Teresa Shellenbarger, a professor in the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, talked about program evaluation. Dr. Cheryl Taylor, chair of the graduate nursing programs at Southern University Kellogg School of Nursing where she holds the Jewel L. and James Prestage Endowed Professorship, and Dr. Leslee Battle, assistant dean for curriculum and instruction in the Division of Nursing at Winston-Salem University, led a panel discussion on what success looks like — also detailing its attendant challenges and opportunities. The final plenary presentation, by Loretta Manning, MSN, RN, GNP, CEO of I Can Publishing, Inc., was a look at the new generation of the NCLEX.

Key conference take-aways were the creation of an ongoing consortium of HBCU schools of nursing pledged to strengthen student performance and enhance HBCU nursing program effectiveness; and to develop strategies for networking among themselves and other stakeholders.

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