An estimated 40% of the population today identifies as nonwhite, but only 17% of nurses identify that way. Why does this matter? It speaks to the need for a more diverse healthcare system. Increased representation across cultures, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations creates a professional environment more in line with the patients it serves.
One path to more diversity in healthcare is education. This means encouraging more persons of color and people from other minority groups to pursue healthcare degrees and supporting their academic and personal journeys from start to finish. The ISRN Nursing Journal reviewed survey results from minority students in nursing with the goal of identifying the biggest challenges they faced when seeking or enrolled in a medical education program. The study found that while results varied by individual, many minority students faced several barriers in common, both inside and outside of the classroom.
This guide looks at each of these barriers in detail and offers multiple solutions that minority students can use to take charge of their allied health education.
Challenge: Financial Support
Financial support plays a crucial role in the lives of college students, and this is especially true for minority students, as highlighted in the ISRN Nursing Journal study. Unfortunately, many of these students face a significant lack of financial support. To make ends meet, some have no choice but to work while studying, which often leads to reducing their course load and prolonging the time required to complete their program.
However, even with part-time study, the demands of a full-time job can negatively impact their grades. Furthermore, they must balance the need to earn a paycheck to cover educational expenses and meet their day-to-day living costs. To combat these issues, many minority students turned to student loans. But upon graduation, those loans come due with a vengeance, taking away the freedom that many graduates hoped to find after school was over. The good news is that many students can avoid loans by looking at a variety of financing options that won’t break the bank with high interest rates or not-so-good terms of repayment. Here are a few solutions catered specifically to minority students.
Quick Tips: How to Land a Scholarship
1. Pay attention to every detail.
Scholarships are highly competitive, so your application and supporting documentation must be perfect. Don’t skip any sections, don’t ignore any requests, and get started on the application early.
2. Never miss a deadline.
When a scholarship committee says their window for admissions will close on a certain date, believe it! Get your application in well before that deadline arrives.
3. Apply for everything you qualify for.
Never leave money on the table. Apply to every scholarship for which you fit the criteria. Don’t hesitate to reach for some scholarship awards even if you’re not sure you fit the criteria – you just might be surprised.
4. Ask questions.
Don’t just do an online search for scholarships and be done with it. Contact the school of choice and ask them what scholarships they offer. Are there any available for minorities? Ask them where you might find other options for financial help.
5. Look at organizations.
There are many businesses, organizations and companies that don’t advertise their scholarships, but do offer them to deserving candidates. Contact minority support groups to begin the process of looking for these underground scholarships that can help foster your educational goals.
Want more information on applying for scholarships? Check out this page on Federal Student Aid.
1. Complete pre-requisites at community college.
Community colleges tend to offer the basic, foundational courses for most programs at much lower tuition costs than you might find at four-year colleges and universities. By spending the first year or two in community college, you could save thousands off the cost of earning a degree.
2. Apply for scholarships and grants.
Scholarships and grants are easy ways to obtain money that doesn’t have to be paid back. In most cases, they will directly reduce the costs of tuition, or they will provide you with some money to pay for books, fees and the like. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Never leave money on the table!
3. Look into payment plans.
Once you’ve brought tuition and fees down as low as possible, it’s time to look into tuition plans. These plans allow you to spread out tuition payments over the course of a semester to make the financial bottom line a bit easier to handle. To learn more, talk to your financial aid advisor about what options are available to you.
Online Learning Resources
- iHomework 2: An app to keep students organized.
- Open Culture: A place to learn about things you didn’t know you wanted to learn about.
- Getting Smart: The best of online learning across the web.
- Study Guide Zone: A free resource to help with studying and learning.
- Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning: This resource provides information on how online learning really works.
- Online Schools & Programs in Healthcare: Our own guide to online learning in the field of allied health.
Types of Schools
Before you start applying to schools, take some time to learn about the different types of schools that offer healthcare education programs. Finding the ones that align with your needs and goals is crucial. For instance, a four-year university might be a perfect fit for your healthcare career aspirations, but there may be better choices for someone else. Explore and learn about each school type to determine which healthcare education programs would be most beneficial for you.
- Community college:
These schools are great for those seeking two-year degrees in a variety of fields, including allied health. For those who want to earn more than an associate degree, community colleges still offer general education courses at a price usually lower than that found at four-year schools. If you’re looking to get an associate degree or certificate and get into the workforce quickly, community college is for you. But steer clear if you plan to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program but your community college doesn’t have articulation agreements with your chosen four-year institution.
- Career/vocational training:
If you’re looking for a healthcare career that takes little formal training and gets you into the workforce fast, a career, vocational or trade school might be the answer for you. For instance, careers like that of phlebotomist, dental assistant or medical assistant can be launched with a certification or diploma from a vocational school. Steer clear if you think you might want to upgrade to a degree – all your hard work from the trade school might not transfer to community college or university.
- Four-year college:
If your chosen healthcare profession requires a bachelor’s degree, this is your option. Colleges and universities offer bachelor’s programs as well as graduate studies, each of which can come in handy when seeking a degree that allows for advancement. However, steer clear if you’re looking for something that can be earned with an associate degree, as these schools tend to be much more expensive than community colleges.
- For-profit college:
These schools provide an opportunity to get a certificate, diploma or degree while working at your own pace. For-profit colleges are great for those who want to get into the workforce quickly and have some disposable income to devote to their career goals. However, steer clear if you might need further financial assistance, as most for-profit schools are on the expensive side and might not offer as hefty financial aid. It’s also important to make sure any for-profit college, just as any other school, holds current accreditation.
Challenge: Emotional Support
Minority students surveyed expressed difficulties in obtaining emotional support. They often experienced feelings of isolation, loneliness, and occasional discrimination from professors and classmates. Some felt that being from a minority background led others to perceive them as having less knowledge or weaker abilities.
Furthermore, these students sometimes faced challenges with family support. They found that their families might prioritize obligations over education or hold traditional beliefs about gender roles in careers, which could prevent them from pursuing their true interests. By understanding these experiences, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all students.
The key takeaway is that students must be aware of the biases that present themselves during the educational journey. By being aware of what to expect and able to spot the issues before they become too large to handle, students can know when it’s time to reach out for support. The following tips can help those who are simply looking for a helping hand or a listening ear – and that can be enough to help you through the tough times in college.
Challenge: Academic Guidance
Many students featured in the ISRN Nursing Journal study said they felt ill-equipped to successfully move through their academic program. This might be especially true for non-traditional students, who often juggle the important roles of spouse, parent, caregiver, and more with the rigors of attending school. Finding balance between social, family, and educational life is a true challenge, one that can be made easier through the appropriate support on the academic front. Here’s how to find the support you need to succeed.
The Importance of Accreditation & Recognition
Before you apply to a program, understanding the ins and outs of accreditation and recognition is a major key to success. It’s important to understand the difference between the two and which schools and training programs have the credentials you need to be prepared for board exams and be taken seriously by employers. Here’s a quick look at the main types of accreditations and recognition in healthcare education:
- Regional accreditation:
Regional accrediting bodies cover a variety of states, and accredit schools only within those states. This accreditation means several important things, such as improving the availability of federal financial aid, ensuring credits will transfer to similarly accredited schools, and awarding a degree that will be recognized by employers across the country and the world. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for colleges and universities; schools go through a multi-year process to gain and keep their status in good standing.
- Programmatic accreditation:
Just as regional accreditation looks at the school as a whole, programmatic accreditation looks at the quality of a particular program. This accreditation is important for those who might want to earn a credential that requires graduation from an accredited program. For instance, the Commission on Dental Accreditation accredits dental hygiene programs; this accreditation is required by almost all states for a dental hygienist to obtain a license to practice.
- National accreditation:
This accreditation often applies to certain types of schools, such as religious or seminary schools. National accreditation is available to schools all over the country. It’s important to remember that while credits from regionally accredited institutions might transfer to a nationally accredited institution, the reverse is not often true.
When a program earns recognition, it is often denoted by something along the lines of “recognized by the Texas State Board of Nursing.” This means the program meets the standards issued by the board of nursing in that state. It’s different from accreditation in that approval or recognition might be narrower than accreditation. On the other hand, it might be much broader, depending upon the state. Recognition of a nursing program is usually required to sit for state boards.
Challenge: Minority Mentors & Role Models
It’s tough to face challenges alone. For a minority student in a field that isn’t representative of the population at large, it can be difficult to find mentors, role models, and helpers who can relate to what you’re going through. According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, only 13% of full-time nursing faculty identify as minorities. However, those faculty members tend to recognize the challenges minority students face and become active participants in helping those students reach their educational goals. Take a look at some ways to find those role models and mentors everyone needs.
Challenge: Cultural Competence
Cultural competence is the ability to relate to people who have cultural practices different from our own. It requires certain skills that might not come easily, such as developing personal awareness and sensitivity, diving into knowledge about cultures you don’t understand, and using the resulting skills to reflect a new attitude in relationships with peers, educators, and coworkers.
Cultural competence nurtures a profound appreciation for diversity and promotes the cultivation of respect among individuals who interact with those who possess the ability to be sensitive to all cultures. It’s made up of four main components:
Having the capacity for cultural self-assessment
Becoming conscious of the micro-dynamics in inherent in cultural interactions
Developing a knowledge base about other cultures
Reflecting competence in relationships