Equitable care begins with an equitable start
June 7, 2023 | 12 min read
By Ylann Schemm
How the Elsevier Foundation is helping Historically Black Colleges and Universities
The Elsevier Foundation(opens in new tab/window) is committed to supporting nursing students through the Schools of Nursing Scholarship Fund — a step in the right direction for ensuring that all nursing students are provided a level playing field when pursuing higher education.
Springboarding off the National League of Nursing/Elsevier HBCU Excellence in Technology Innovation(opens in new tab/window) program, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Schools of Nursing Scholarship Fund aims to address the pervasive health disparities in U.S. health care by promoting a racially diverse nursing workforce. Over the past three years, the Elsevier Foundation has worked closely with education and nursing institutions to promote equitability in learning and practice.
These scholarships have made the dream of becoming a professional nurse attainable for many students ... relieving the stress imposed surmounting student debt, resulting in students completing their education uninhibited.
—Dr Cecil Holland, Associate Dean and Professor of Nursing at Winston Salem State University(opens in new tab/window)
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are deeply committed to fostering thriving careers, in tandem with research and outreach on the needs of minority communities. With 107 HBCUs across the US, these academic institutions allow students to develop professionally, while building community through a shared sense of belonging and initiative. For nursing students, HBCUs bridge the gap between accessing knowledge and providing equitable patient care to people of color. By creating inclusive learning opportunities that extend beyond classroom, HBCUs are a space for reflection and change.
Embedded in policies and institutions that oversee health care providers, structural racism fuels disparities in patient care by undermining the well-being of patients from racially diverse communities. As frontline workers, nursing practitioners are integral to the entire medical profession.
Why is it crucial to support nursing students of HBCUs?
1. Nurses are vital and so is their education
Nurses are on the frontlines of direct patient care. As the first point of contact, they play a pivotal role in overseeing patients throughout their treatment, and are an indispensable part of health care. They also represent 4x the size of the physician workforce. Nurses became especially visible during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only called attention to severe public health challenges in the US healthcare system, but also reaffirmed the absolute necessity of a racially diverse nursing workforce. Investing in the education of nursing students from diverse communities will produce nursing professionals that are aware of the issues around delivering equitable care.
2. Inequities in funding results in inequities in opportunities
While HBCUs are committed to student excellence, funding inequities caused by the historical legacy of racism continue to persist creating disparities in adequate nursing education and practice. HBCUs’ continue to work towards closing the prevailing funding gap, further exacerbated by worsening economic conditions such as inflation. Although efforts are in place to bolster financial means, such as increasing the cap for out-of-state enrolment, funding inequities and inadequate allocation of resources continue to be problematic for HBCUs. Addressing these inequities is the first step towards helping nursing students have unencumbered access to learning and professional opportunities.
Due to the fast progression of the program and being a single mother, I was unable to maintain my Certified Nursing Assistant job throughout the program. Receiving the scholarship helped me lessen the financial burden and allowed me to complete my studies … It makes a big difference.
—Alejandra Cortes-Espino, nursing student at Winston Salem University and recipient of the scholarship
3. Diversifying leadership leads to diversified healthcare
A lack of diversity in nursing stems from a lack of awareness and resources for providing equitable care to racially stigmatized populations. Diversifying from the top has the potential to create a ripple effect that resonates through all levels of health care. Racially diverse nursing leaders can tap into their own lived experience to share knowledge and expertise in treating patients from racially diverse communities. A strong diversity within schools translates to the expectations people will have for the professional workforce. Creating diverse nursing leaders starts with opportunities for students to enter leadership pathways — ultimately, diversifying all levels of the nursing profession.
Systemic bias continues to plague the U.S health care system, negatively impacting the type and quality of treatment people of colour receive. By building a community that serves to encourage academic and professional success of communities of colour, HBCUs are dedicated to fostering diversity within nursing.
The historical legacies of limiting African Americans access to education speaks to HBCUs commitment to provide substantial support for students’ learning and professional development. With a budget of $50,000 USD distributed equally between five participating HBCUs across the U.S, the Elsevier Foundation scholarship fund empowers Schools to alleviate financial burden, reward service participation, and aid students.
The scholarship has made a positive impact in my progression in the nursing program. The additional funds covered necessary expenses, which allowed me to focus on my studies, and I was able to spend more time studying to achieve academic excellence, without fear of financial instability. I feel grateful to have been given this opportunity: it has helped me reach my dream to graduate from college.
—Angie Herrera, nursing student at Winston Salem University and recipient of the scholarship
Read The Elsevier Foundation Report 2023
Our aim is to build equity and capacity in the health and research ecosystem, for an inclusive and sustainable future. In 2023, we look forward to sharing our new theory of change and purpose build strategy for the road ahead.
—Ylann Schemm, Executive Director, The Elsevier Foundation