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Black Nurses Filling Key Voids at Nursing Schools, ER

Experienced nurses in the United States are retiring at a rapid clip, and there aren’t enough new nursing graduates to replenish the workforce, according to a recent CNN Money investigation.

At the same time, the nation’s population is aging and requires more care.

“It’s really a catch-22 situation,” Robert Rosseter, spokesman for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said at the time.

For many years, nursing has been a great career for African American women — from the bedside, to advanced practice, and even in health systems administration and dean’s offices at prominent nursing schools, African American women are leaders in nursing and health care here in the U.S. and abroad, said Randolph F.R. Rasch, the dean at the Michigan State University College of Nursing.

As health care in the U.S. — and around the world — evolves, this is nursing’s time, Rasch said.

“Nursing is also a great career for men and, increasingly, for African-American men, as evidenced by the current president of the American Nurses Association, Dr. Ernest Grant, who is the first African American man to hold the position,” he said.

“And then there is also myself, who was the first African American man to graduate with a bachelor’s of science in nursing from my university, first African American male public health nurse in Michigan, and the first African American nurse practitioner and first African American male to hold a Ph.D. in nursing in the world,” Rasch said.

When it comes to the state of nursing schools, there are many strong programs in the country; however, the challenge for nursing education is to increase capacity to address the need for more nurses and the increasing demand for nursing education, and especially bachelor’s-prepared nurses, he said.

“There is also a need for nursing programs to find ways to expand capacity without compromising quality. We must ensure that we are preparing nurses to practice in a rapidly changing health care environment and to use rapid — and radical — changes in technology in our work with patients,” Rasch said.

When comparing the ethnic diversity of nurses to the general public in the U.S., the 2010 Census found that 12.6 percent identify as Black or African American.

A 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistic’s population survey reported that, of the 2.875 million nurses in America, 11.5 percent were black.

“Nursing schools in America are only getting better, but also harder to get into, which is a good thing [because] the nursing profession is not for the faint of hearts,” said Shantay Carter,
 founder, Women of Integrity Inc.

“You just can’t go into nursing for the money. … Nursing schools now have high-tech, state-of-the-art simulation facilities, which have seem to enhance the clinical skills of nursing students and they have evolved to the point that students have access to get their degree online,” Carter said.

“I think the reason that many Black women are getting into triage and nursing care services, is because of the fact that the profession is held in such a high regard — remember, nursing is the number one most trusted profession and as a black woman myself, I remember growing up seeing my grandmother and others as nurses and they showed so much pride for their job that it made me aspire to be like them because as a nurse, you’re a teacher, caregiver and an advocate,” Carter said.

Nursing schools in America are typically a direct reflection of the economy, so currently they are thriving, said Catherine Burger, a RN and media specialist and contributor for RegisteredNursing.org.

“The real challenge has been in new grads getting their first job as a nurse since most employers require experience. In a slow economy, experienced nurses are working two or three jobs which absorbs the entry-level positions,” Burger said.

“However, with a healthy economy, experienced nurses are working only one job which leads to the need for more ‘New Grad’ or Nurse Residency programs that provide inexperienced nurses with the additional required clinical experience. With these programs, nurses can choose specialty areas such a triage earlier in their careers,” she said.

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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