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Nursing students have strong feelings about DEI initiatives at their schools

Drazen Zigic//Shutterstock

Nursing students have strong feelings about DEI initiatives at their schools

two nursing students have a discussion in a school setting

Despite the end of affirmative action as we know it and a raft of legislation targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), nursing and other health professions students continue to support diverse and inclusive education environments.

To learn more about the role of DEI initiatives in higher education, BestColleges conducted a  survey among 1,000 students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs. About half of health and nursing student respondents (52%) said if their college were to abolish DEI initiatives, they would consider transferring. This finding is similar to the survey’s responses from all students, 55% of whom would consider transferring if their college were to discontinue DEI activities.

In the same survey, nearly half of nursing and health students (47%) said that if a college they were considering abolished DEI initiatives, it would impact their decision to enroll.

What Are DEI Initiatives?

DEI initiatives are intentional strategies that strive to enhance diversity in schools and the workforce. In nursing, these strategies include having a culturally diverse workforce and improving representation by recruiting underrepresented students into nursing..DEI initiatives are important, proponents say, not just in higher education but in the healthcare system, where DEI initiatives are gaining prominence. Research shows that representation matters in healthcare, with health outcomes improving for underrepresented racial and ethnic groups when they interact with a similarly diverse pool of healthcare professionals.

DEI initiatives also focus on addressing discrimination or bias in nursing schools, which, according to studies, is an ongoing challenge. In 2022, the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing surveyed more than 5,600 nurses. Nearly 63% of nurses reported that they experienced an act of racism.

The Supreme Court, Affirmative Action, DEI, and Nursing School

During the summer of 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admissions practices — for example, affirmative action — are unconstitutional.

In the wake of the decision, some statehouses pulled back funding for DEI programs, particularly targeting state colleges and universities. The University of Texas System paused any new DEI efforts on their campuses, while Texas A&M University banned diversity statements in their hiring applications.

Florida House Bill 999 proposed a ban on funding for DEI programs at colleges and universities. The bill calls for the removal of programs that include critical race theory, race studies, queer studies, and radical feminist theory.

The Supreme Court’s decision may continue to affect the future of DEI initiatives in nursing schools, some of which are already struggling to recruit a diverse student body.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) latest school diversity data shows an increase in minority students enrolled in and graduated from baccalaureate nursing programs since 2018.

However, despite great efforts to increase the representation of nurses of color, diversity in nursing and healthcare continues to be an issue.

DEI Initiatives: Signs of Progress in Nursing School

Prospective nursing students should be pleased to know nursing schools are continuing to invest in creating an environment where students can grow in diverse settings and break barriers to incorporating DEI initiatives.

In an attempt to highlight racism in nursing, the AACN and other leading nursing organizations have released a series of action reports to bring awareness to it.

Further, the AACN selected 50 nursing schools to help identify the hallmarks of inclusive learning environments.

The AACN also created a survey inviting schools to participate in collecting specific data. Data includes:

  • Fair treatment and observations of discrimination
  • Belongingness
  • Value of diversity and inclusion
  • Campus services
  • Clinical training

In addition, Johnson & Johnson created two pilot programs to support nursing students of color. The first program focuses on nursing leadership. The second is a survey by AACN targeting nursing students to measure their sense of belonging in the classroom.

This story was produced by BestColleges and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

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