At ProMedica, we’re committed to addressing the root causes of health inequities for individuals and communities. That includes the systemic issues within our own healthcare industry, including the impact racism, bias and lack of representation among healthcare providers has on quality of health care.
Consider this scenario:
After weeks of headaches and fatigue, Carol finally stopped by a local urgent care facility. The doctor did a general checkup and sent Carol home with orders to start an iron supplement and get more rest. With a full-time job and three kids, she was probably just run-down and borderline anemic.
Carol followed orders, but the fatigue persisted, and she also started to experience muscle and joint aches and the occasional fever. Carol didn’t have a primary care doctor but got a recommendation from a friend and went in for a full check-up.
The nurse who did the pre-exam was Black and has skin of color just like Carol’s. As Carol described her symptoms, the nurse asked if she had noticed any rashes or differences in her skin. Carol pulled up her sleeve to show the nurse a circle of discoloration. The nurse asked if Carol had shown this to the urgent care doctor and Carol said he had just labeled it a slight case of eczema – nothing to worry about.
The examining nurse flagged this for the doctor, who eventually made a diagnosis of Lyme disease, which can become quite serious if left untreated. They explained that the rash often presents a bit differently on skin of color and white medical professionals who haven’t seen it on Black or other patients of color before are far less likely to recognize it for what it is.
Although this specific story isn’t real, similar experiences happen too often. This is just one example of why it’s so important for medical professionals to reflect the communities they serve. We also know that representation is important. Young people are far more likely to see different career opportunities if they see them reflected in the adults that surround them.
In the United States, racial minorities accounted for more than one third of the population in 2014, projected to become the majority by 2043. However, only 19.2% of registered nurses (RNs) are from a racial or ethnic minority. Additionally, there is an overall shortage of nurses in the country.
That is why ProMedica recently launched its Diversity in Nursing scholarship program. Up to 50 scholarships will be awarded annually to students belonging to an underrepresented minority group attending an eligible institution in the ProMedica footprint.
The first class of scholarships was awarded in the fall of 2021, and the stories are already remarkable. Here is some of the feedback from members of the Diversity in Nursing scholarship program:
Debora was born and raised in Brazil and came to the United States 20 years ago on a Green Card lottery. When she first started school, she did not speak English. Now, she says, “In this country there are so many outlets and opportunities that can change a person’s life and this scholarship is one of them. It does not matter where you are from, where you have been, or what you have done. All that matters is that you never give up. This scholarship will change my life and my daughter’s.”
Another participant, Cory, reflects, “This scholarship means the world to me because it gives me the ability to perform at my highest caliber, without having to worry about how I will afford the laptop and books needed for me to complete daily tasks. It also allows another gay man of color to reside in the world of medicine with the prestige and skillsets of a nurse.”
There are high hopes for this new initiative. Lauryn Vargas, manager of education initiatives at ProMedica, coordinates the program.
“We are thrilled to see the opportunities this scholarship is providing already,” Vargas said. “Not only are we creating a stronger, more diverse pipeline of nurses that can serve the communities in our footprint, but we are seeing the scholarship provide new opportunities for the individual recipients. We are also helping address the overall nursing shortage. It’s a win-win-win!”
Are you interested in the Diversity in Nursing scholarship? There are scholarship dollars still available for the next cohort. For more information or to download an application, click here.