An estimated 40% of the population today identifies as minority; however, 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. Not only encouraging more persons of color and other minorities to pursue healthcare degrees, but supporting their academic and personal journeys from start to finish. In 2012, the ISRN Nursing Journal reviewed survey results from minority students in nursing. The goal? To identify 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 a number of barriers in common, both inside and outside of the classroom.
This guide takes a look 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 is critical to every college student. But among minority students in the ISRN Nursing Journal study, a significant lack of financial support was noted. Some of this stemmed from a need to work through school to make ends meet, which in turn required dropping to part-time study and thus extending their program completion date. But even with part-time study, the realities of working a full-time job can mean grades suffer. In addition, there is the added need to bring in a paycheck to not only pay for education expenses, but to afford the day-to-day requirements of living expenses.
To combat these issues, many 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 for which are you “borderline” either – 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 as a way 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 filling out applications, make sure you know which types of schools offer healthcare education programs. And, most importantly, figure out which schools make sense for you. For example, a four-year university may be great for you and your healthcare career goals, but it may be less than ideal for someone else. Read about each school type and who might benefit from its healthcare education programs.
- 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 indicated challenges in finding emotional support. Many reported they felt isolation and loneliness, as well as occasional discrimination from professors and peers. Some viewed those of minority status as somehow having less knowledge or a weaker skill set. Many even struggled with family support, finding that school was often seen as not that important when compared to family obligations, or that long-held beliefs about what jobs were “right” for a woman or a man kept them from pursuing a career they really held an interest in.
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
Well 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 not only the difference between the two, but 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 accreditation 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 not restricted to a particular region; it 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. Let’s 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 those 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 plants a deep seed of respect for diversity and encourages that same respect among others who come into contact with someone who knows how to be sensitive to a variety of cultures. There are four primary components in cultural competence:
Having the capacity for cultural self-assessment
Becoming conscious of the microdynamics in inherent in cultural interactions
Developing a knowledge base about other cultures
Reflecting competence in relationships