Dean Holzemer

The Dean’s Desk | Thoughts from Rutgers Nursing Leadership

Rutgers Helps Lead America in Providing a Nursing Workforce That Matches the Nation’s Diversity

Friday, April 8, 2016

William L. Holzemer, RN, PhD, FAAN
Rutgers University School of Nursing

You need only look around at a street corner, on a bus, or in a restaurant to appreciate how ethnically diverse America has become in recent years. 

The Census Bureau says individuals from ethnic and racial minority groups accounted for 37% of our population in 2012, heading toward a majority-minority count by 2043.  That momentous demographic shift demands that nursing keep pace, developing a workforce that reflects America’s diversity both in terms of its own numbers and in demonstrating sensitivity to and understanding of the many different cultures among us.  This is essential to providing high quality care.

A 2013 survey by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers found nurses from minority backgrounds represented only 19% of the registered nurse (RN) workforce, with 83% of RNs being White/Caucasian, 6% African American, 6% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and 1% each American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or “other.” 

In a profession long perceived as a woman’s world, there also is a gender diversity challenge. The NCSBN survey found that men account for 7% of the RN workforce; the Census Bureau reported in 2013 that men comprised 9.6% of RNs.  

So it is clear we have some ground to cover to adequately reflect the diversity level already reached nationwide – and a long way to go by 2043.

Our need to prepare more nurses from minority groups is matched by an imperative to put a more diverse group of instructors at the front of the classroom. Unfortunately, few nurses from racial/ethnic minority groups with advanced nursing degrees pursue faculty careers. According to 2013 data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s annual survey, only 13.1% of full-time nursing school faculty have minority backgrounds, and only 5.5% are male.

As the leading center for nursing education in one of America’s most diverse states, the Rutgers School of Nursing has helped lead the way in meeting the diversity challenge. Part of one of the most diverse student populations among America’s universities, 40% of our undergraduate nursing students belong to minority groups – and minorities comprise 47% of those in our graduate programs.  Fifteen percent of our undergraduate students, and 13% of those seeking graduate nursing degrees, are male.

And again, the diversity challenge will grow as the years pass. We must encourage Americans from minority groups to consider nursing as a career, and help those with financial limitations find scholarships and loans to facilitate their education. And we must motivate some of those who choose that profession to circle back to the classroom and leverage their experiences to help new minority students enter nursing.


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