A diverse population demands a diverse workforce, especially in healthcare. Nurses who are able to effectively interact with patients across cultures and ethnic backgrounds deliver the best care to patients by alleviating fears about treatment and care, experts say.
UMass Lowell’s Bring Diversity to Nursing (BDN) program is a powerful way to attract, retain and graduate nurses who can work in the community to reduce disparities of care and improve outcomes. Students enrolled in the program receive support such as scholarships, stipends, technology equipment, tutoring, mentoring and leadership opportunities – all designed to help them graduate and work in local communities.
At a recent event, nursing faculty and administrators welcomed 32 students – 29 sophomores, juniors and seniors and three freshmen – to the program.
“We welcome you to UMass Lowell and will do whatever is in our power to help you succeed, graduate from our nursing program and work as professionals to help people receive the care they deserve,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan at the event.
The program, now in its fifth year, has graduated 28 students with four more graduating this fall. All who have graduated have passed the national license exam for registered nurses.
“We are thrilled to see students who participated in the BDN program now working as nurses to deliver the same culturally competent care that you, too, will one day provide,” said Nursing Department Chair Karen Devereaux Melillo.
“Nurses who are culturally competent understand the barriers that patients face and can have a positive impact on preventing or managing diseases and reducing mortality rates among these populations.”
Nursing freshman Erneston Maurissaint realized he wanted to be a nurse when he was 10 years old. His mother, who is from Haiti, has suffered for years with kidney disease. Witnessing the care and compassion that the nurses gave to her, Maurissaint decided then that he would become a nurse. Now enrolled in the BDN program, he is already reaping the benefits.
“Because of the scholarship I received, I could cut down on the number of hours I have to work and concentrate on my studies,” he says. “I also find it very helpful to review my progress with a mentor who has great ideas on how to solve any issues I’m having.”
Wendy Sanchez, a recent graduate of the BDN program, works as a registered nurse case manager for United HealthCare Group, giving health advice to elderly people in the Merrimack Valley. She also works as a mentor to students in the BDN program.
"I feel that students need somebody to look up to and I think they will be able to relate to me,” she says. “If they are determined to better themselves, then I will be there to support them just like UMass Lowell faculty and staff were there for me.”
The BDN program is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Reaching Out to Future Nurses
Raising awareness of nursing as a career with elementary, middle school and high school students is a critical component of the Bring Diversity to Nursing program. The project team conducts workshops at Lawrence and Lowell public schools and the Lawrence Branch of the Merrimack Valley YMCA. Hands-on workshops and after-school clubs give students an inside look at the nursing profession to see if the career is a good match for them.