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Nursing Receives Nearly $1M Grant

Funds Support Workforce Diversity

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Lawrence High School students participate in a nursing workshop. Nursing received a $996,584 grant to recruit, retain and graduate nurses from diverse backgrounds.

By Karen Angelo

The Department of Nursing received a three-year $996,584 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to recruit, retain and graduate nurses who can effectively interact with patients across diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. 

The project, Bring Diversity and Leadership to Nursing, will raise awareness of nursing as a career through workshops, clubs and demonstrations with elementary, middle and high school students in Lowell and Lawrence. Eligible students enrolled in the nursing program will receive support such as scholarships, stipends, technology equipment, tutoring, mentoring and leadership opportunities – all designed to help them graduate and work in local communities. 

“Increasing the number of nurses who understand health beliefs, religious practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients is key to reducing health disparities in the cities of Lowell and Lawrence,” says Chair of the Nursing Department, Karen Devereaux Melillo. 

Healthy People 2020 – a federal program that sets goals to improve the health of all Americans – has targeted the elimination of health disparities as a national objective. Nurses who are culturally competent understand the cultural and linguistic barriers that patients face and can have a positive impact on promoting health and preventing or managing diseases and reducing mortality rates among diverse populations. 

The project team will conduct workshops at Lawrence and Lowell public schools and the Lawrence Branch of the Merrimack Valley YMCA. Hands-on workshops and after-school clubs will give students an inside look at the nursing profession to see if the career is a good match for them. 

Another tool to inspire underserved and disadvantaged students is nursing’s mobile simulation laboratory – a 34-foot bus that includes two realistic mannequins, birthing mother “Noelle” and newborn “Hal.” Faculty will drive the bus to local schools and use the mannequins to simulate functions of the human body such as breathing, crying, talking and assuming medical conditions. 

To support incoming freshmen, the project team will offer a 15-hour jumpstart orientation that will include help with medical terminology, medication math and test-taking strategies. Retention efforts include on-going mentoring, educational technologies, stipends and leadership opportunities.

Building on Past Success with Leadership Skills 

This grant builds upon an earlier, successful project - Bring Diversity to Nursing - that has been funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health since 2007. All thirty students who graduated from the Bring Diversity to Nursing program are expected to pass the national RN licensure exam. This new grant continues the momentum, expanding to mentor and teach students about leadership skills. These skills will help develop minority nurse leaders who can influence health policies and contribute their knowledge and expertise to health care administration, academia and research. 

Students in the program will learn about systems thinking, team building, budgeting, time management and conflict resolution. 

The project is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Project members on the grant include Melillo, Assoc. Profs. Jacqueline Dowling, Lisa Abdallah, Margaret Knight and Shellie Simons.