Black Nurse Scientists Mentoring Program Tours N.C. A&T to Inspire Advanced Nursing Careers

By Jamie Crockett / 03/11/2024 College of Health and Human Sciences, Nursing

–  Renee Douglas contributed to this report.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (March 11, 2024) – Approximately 150 students pursuing the nursing track at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University participated in the inaugural Black Nurse Scientists Mentoring Program Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Tour at Union Square in downtown Greensboro.

The tour kickoff featured activities for students and presentations from four Black nurse scientists highlighting their expertise and the need for more diverse students to pursue doctorates in the field so they can become leaders in addressing health inequities in their communities.

Schenita Randolph, Ph.D., an associate professor at Duke University School of Nursing and a former N.C. A&T faculty member, is one of four Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators inaugural cohort members. Kamila A. Alexander, Ph.D., RN (Johns Hopkins School of Nursing), Dawn M. Aycock, Ph.D., RN (Georgia State School of Nursing), and Fawn A. Cothran, Ph.D., RN (National Alliance for Caregiving) joined her on the tour after they secured funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Students participated in one of three escape rooms, highlighting scenarios related to the presenters’ research expertise in intimate partner violence, stroke prevention and dementia family caregiving research, respectively.

“As we think about addressing health disparities and outcomes, we know that the workforce for nursing needs to reflect that of the population,” said Randolph, an A&T alumna and founding director of the Addressing Health Disparities through Equity, Engagement, Advocacy, and Trust (HEEAT) lab.

“When we recognize that infant mortality, HIV and cardiovascular disease are high among communities of color, we must consider how we are preparing students to meet those needs,” she said. “When we think about leaders and addressing inequities, we have to be at the table.”

Randolph, whose research includes addressing sexual health inequities Black male adolescents and women experience, described the nursing landscape to audience members. She underscored that most HBCUs are located in the south and only three of them – Hampton University, Southern University A&M College and Morgan State University – have Ph.D. programs related to nursing.

Randolph also discussed the differences between Ph.D. and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, pointing to the shortage of nursing personnel with doctoral degrees and how it limits the preparation of the next generation of leaders.

“Among nurses in positions of greater influence, Black nurses are only 8.8% of full-time nursing faculty, less than 10% are deans or directors, and less than 1% are nurse scientists,” she said. “And research shows DNP programs have increased in enrollment. However, the enrollment for research-focused doctoral degrees might be high, but the graduation rates are low. There is an urgent need for both DNP and Ph.D. programs that graduate Black nurses and other nurses of color.

“There is something else that you can do with your career as a nurse beyond the bedside.”

Nursing students in A&T’s John R. and Kathy R. Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences are required to participate in research, internship and clinical opportunities before graduating.

Senior nursing student Rose Jackson contributed to a research study at New York University and will be the first HBCU student to present at the Midwest Nursing Research Society conference. Jackson will present a literature review of the barriers and facilitators that affect physical activities of Black women.

“I reviewed a lot of different articles, and there weren’t that many focused on Black women specifically and their perspectives of physical activity, which made the process a little hard,” said Jackson. “It was eye-opening for me because some of the things I saw, I’ve never thought about how I engage in physical activity, or even how my peers or family members engage.”

Students who are preparing to enter A&T’s rigorous nursing program said the discussion helped them think differently about their career options.

“It was empowering being able to see other Black women in my field that have done significant things for the community,” said Ryan Jackson, a sophomore pre-nursing student. “There are many more opportunities within nursing than I thought, but now my eyes have been opened to all the possibilities. There is so much that I can achieve during my career path.”

Randolph believes the tour will contribute to addressing the existing gap of challenges in promoting and increasing representation of nurse scientists.

“It’s important to expose undergraduate students to various academic and leadership pursuits and opportunities for them to grow,” said Randolph. “This includes helping them build a strong social network of individuals that can collaborate and support one another – potentially mitigating some of the challenges faced due to limited resources.”

A&T recently announced the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors unanimously approved a DNP program in the Hairston College, with expectations to receive applications as early as fall 2024.

Media Contact Information: jicrockett@ncat.edu

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