People of SU / Science / Technology and Health

Diversifying Health Care

Written by Tina Potterf

July 11, 2023

Interior shot of College of Nursing signage

College of Nursing receives $2.5M grant to help expand the number of BIPOC doctoral nursing practitioners and increase outreach to underrepresented populations.

A new grant awarded to the College of Nursing will help prepare doctoral nursing students in an effort to increase health care providers in underserved urban and rural areas, while also expanding the diversity of the workforce to include more BIPOC professionals particularly in the areas of primary care, midwifery and mental health. 

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Dr. Bonnie Bowie, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN, was awarded the $2.5 million grant from the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration). Covering four years, the grant will support several initiatives including:

  • Partial scholarships for roughly three dozen primary care, midwifery and psychiatric mental health Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students each year that will include travel and lodging for travel to rural areas in southwest Washington and northeast Montana.
  • Funding for creating a BIPOC peer mentorship program and for faculty to attend a yearlong DEI workshop in partnership with Seattle University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
  • The grant will also cover a half-time program support person as well as funds for the College of Nursing to obtain a continuing education license and for faculty to develop online trainings for clinical partners.

“Recognizing the tremendous health care needs of underserved, historically marginalized and geographically distant communities, this HRSA award will allow Seattle University to better support training of advanced practice registered nurses, especially to graduate students with underrepresented identities,” says College of Nursing Dean Butch de Castro, PhD, MSN/MPH, RN, FAAN. “I so admire and appreciate Dr. Bowie and all others who selflessly committed their time and effort to apply for this funding. This pursuit truly reflects our college’s mission to take action in ways that will transform health care in order to create a just and humane world.”

This grant aligns with the mission of the College of Nursing to improve health care access while educating nursing professionals to care for communities and populations they represent. Currently, BIPOC students comprise roughly 60% of all DNP students.

“I think one of the reasons we were awarded the grant is because we place such emphasis on serving the underserved and routinely partner with heath care agencies who share our mission and values,” says Dr. Bowie, who has been at the College of Nursing for 23 years. 

“Of all the things I have accomplished during my time at SU, increasing the diversity of our student population is something I am most proud of. However, there is more work to be done in this area and I am thrilled that with this HRSA award, we have the opportunity to build on this work to create a more inclusive environment for our students.”

Here is more from Dr. Bowie on the impact this grant will have not only in training the next wave of nursing professionals but also on the college as a whole. 

What does it mean for you and the work of supporting doctoral students in the college to receive a grant like this?
“I can’t tell you how much this grant means to me—not only because it will provide scholarships for about 36 students each year, but also because it will support some of our students who will do their clinical practicum in rural places such as northeast Montana and southwest Washington. The grant will provide travel and room funding for students who travel to the specific clinical agencies identified within the grant. We send our students all over the state to gain valuable clinical experiences as it is challenging to find preceptors who are willing to give up their time to mentor a nurse practitioner student. When students travel to other areas or states, it is typically on their dime.”

This grant covers partial scholarships for doctoral students in primary care, midwifery and psychiatric mental health. Is it focused on these three areas because of a need or gap in the health care industry?
“Yes, exactly. The Health Resources and Services Administration is trying to increase the number of primary care providers in these three specific specialties, particularly to increase providers who care for patients in underserved urban and rural areas. I think one of the reasons we were awarded the grant is because we place such emphasis on serving the underserved and routinely partner with heath care agencies who share our mission and values.”

Can you tell me about how this will also help create a BIPOC peer mentorship program and what that looks like?
“One of the goals we needed to speak to in the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce grant application was our plan for increasing and retaining BIPOC DNP students. In 2019, under the guidance of our then new Admissions Specialist, Oz Sener, we adopted a more holistic admission process for the DNP program. In 2020, Sener proposed hiring five of our current DNP students as Diversity Ambassadors who would attend recruitment and orientation events, meet with prospective students and answer their questions. This program has been very successful and so we proposed building on the Diversity Ambassador program with something similar for supporting current BIPOC students. 

“The BIPOC peer mentors will be paid a small stipend to organize quarterly meetings for networking and support of their peers. There is also money to invite BIPOC nurse practitioner speakers from the community to serve as role models and mentors and to increasing networking. The BIPOC peer mentors will also receive guidance and mentorship from a BIPOC nurse practitioner faculty member. The need for BIPOC peer mentors came from our own students. One of the DNP students, Kimberly Ha, started a grassroots BIPOC peer mentorship program during her first year of the program and I am looking forward to working with Kimberly and other students to design a program that meets their needs.”

Do you see this as having an impact in attracting and retaining a more diverse nursing student population?   
“Since implementing a more holistic admission process and adding the Diversity Ambassadors, the CON DNP program has increased BIPOC admits by 30%. Currently, BIPOC students comprise 60% of DNP students. While retention of BIPOC students is fairly high at 85%, it is slightly lower than white DNP students (89%). So yes, we are hoping that through the BIPOC peer mentorship program the retention numbers will increase, but more importantly, we want our BIPOC students to feel safe from microaggressions and biases in clinical and classroom settings. 

“Another important piece of the grant is to provide 10 nursing faculty each year with the opportunity to attend a yearlong educational program on creating a culturally safe learning environment for our BIPOC students. We are working with Dr. Laura Heider, the Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, to create and offer this educational program. We also included money in the budget to develop online training modules for our clinical partners and preceptors on best practices for supporting BIPOC students. Through these measures, we are also hoping that the diversity of our nursing faculty shifts to reflect that of our students over the next few years.”

This grant spans four years. What are the specific milestones or targeted initiatives for each year? 
“We will track students after they leave the program to see if they are more likely to take a position in a Federally Qualified Health Care Center or other agency that treats underserved populations. We will continue to track admission and retention numbers for DNP students and will measure satisfaction with the BIPOC peer mentorships program with participants.”

Other College of Nursing News

College of Nursing Professors New Inductees into the American Academy of Nursing

Seattle University's Dr. Carrie Miller, Dr. Diane K. Fuller Switzer, Dr. Kumhee Ro and Dr. Mo-Kyung Sin are among 253 distinguished nurse leaders from around the globe who will be recognized for their substantial, sustained and outstanding impact on health and health care. Their induction into the American Academy of Nursing will take place during the October 5-7 meeting of the academy. Induction into this organization is the highest honor bestowed on a nurse leader. Having four inductees from one college inducted at the same time is a rare occurrence and noteworthy achievement.