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SLU Receives $2.1 Million Federal HRSA Grant to Support Diverse Nursing Students, Provide Faculty Development

by Bridjes O'Neil on 07/12/2021
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ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University (SLU)’s Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing is the recipient of a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) nursing workforce diversity grant. SLU’s School of Nursing will receive $2.1 million in federal funds over the next four years to support underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged students. This is the third time the school has received the nursing workforce diversity grant. 

 Teri Murray, Ph.D., professor and dean emerita of the School of Nursing, said minority providers make up a small percentage of the nursing workforce despite comprising nearly 50% of the U.S. population. As a nurse with 25 years of experience as an academic administrator, Murray said she understands how it feels to be marginalized and is committed to increasing diversity in the nursing profession. 

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Saint Louis University (SLU)’s Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing. SLU file photo. 

Historically, nursing has predominantly been a white profession, Murray said.

“Current research shows that to advance health equity, the evidence points to patients from minority backgrounds fare better when they’re taken care of by people who look like them,” she added.

Minority patients tend to trust and seek health care from minority providers. Health disparities can be reduced by minority providers who can provide culturally responsive and appropriate care. They are also more likely to advocate for vulnerable and diverse populations, Murray said. 

Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable. It achieves its goal in part by strengthening the skills and diversity of the health workforce and expanding the ability of health providers to see patients in underserved areas.

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Teri Murray, Ph.D., professor and dean emerita of the School of Nursing, (back row) with HRSA grantees in 2019 at SLU's north campus. Murray is pictured with Emily Boyd, retention specialist at SLU's School of Nursing (far left); and Krista Simmons, assistant professor of  clinical and laboratory courses in the pre-licensure program at SLU's School of Nursing (front row in front of Murray). Submitted photo by Teri Murray.

The HRSA nursing workforce diversity grant will help SLU’s School of Nursing increase the recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds, especially for students who are African American or Hispanic/Latino. Both groups are underrepresented in the nursing workforce and nursing education.

The grant funding will aid 40 students (10 each year). All grant recipients will receive stipends for non-academic or academic related expenses and a minimum of $5,000 in scholarship funds for tuition, books, and fees assistance. The program also includes a pre-entry preparation component supported by the East Central Missouri Area Health Education Center, a sophomore summer immersion experience prior to beginning the clinical sequence, and various academic and student service supports throughout the program.

Students are provided with three levels of mentoring. Near-peer mentors are upper-division nursing students who assist incoming students as they navigate academic life and nursing school. They are also paired with SLU faculty and professional mentors through partnerships with SSM Health, BJC HealthCare, the Black Nurses of Association of Greater St. Louis, and the Kansas City Hispanic Nurses.

“Students are the pipeline to increasing the diversity in the nursing profession,” Murray said. “When students see nurses or faculty who look like them, they can envision themselves in that role and feel they, too, can be successful.”

The School of Nursing received a four-year $1.5 million HRSA grant in 2017 and a three-year $900,000 HRSA grant in 2010. In 2016, SLU was awarded $2.1 million in federal funds through HRSA’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program to benefit nursing students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Those awarded scholarships demonstrated financial need and included students who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. 

The School of Nursing boasts an 86% retention rate for the HRSA 2017 grant recipients and a 100% graduation rate for all 20 students who received HRSA Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students awards (2016-2020). Data shows reasons for low retention rates based on ethnicity and race vary but includes feelings of exclusion, imposter syndrome, and stereotype threat. It is for these reasons grant funds in part will go toward faculty development, Murray said.

“Understanding the needs of diverse student populations is critical for student retention through graduation” she said. “Part of the new grant will incorporate faculty development with specific programming on bias education, implicit bias, and best practices for teaching in diverse classrooms."

Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing

Founded in 1928, the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University has achieved a national reputation for its innovative and pioneering programs. Offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs, its faculty members are nationally recognized for their teaching, research, and clinical expertise.