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LAC group works with Hispanic high school students to expose them to careers in nursing

Increasing nursing workforce diversity is a key area of work for the Louisiana Action Coalition (LAC). To achieve this, a more diverse group of nursing students must be recruited into the state’s nursing programs. During the 2015-2016 school year, LAC executed a nine-month pilot program that aimed to expose students to careers in nursing through mentorship, job shadowing and observation at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Simulation Lab.

LAC members, project coordinator Lisa Colletti, RN, MN, NEA-BC; and co-coordinator Leslie Hughes, RN, BSN, worked with Bonnabel Magnet Academy High School to choose five senior-level Hispanic students to participate in the pilot. Hispanic nurses with Ochsner Medical Center Kenner (OMCK) provided the mentoring.

“Bonnabel was chosen because they had the largest number of Hispanic students in the area, 42 percent of the student body, and also because they had an established relationship with OMCK,” said Colletti. “The students were selected by the faculty based on C or above scores in math and science, expressed interest in a healthcare profession after graduation, leadership ability, minimal attendance issues and willingness to participate. The school obtained waivers from the parents granting permission to participate.”

The first shadow experience paired each high school student with a nurse mentor for five hours in one location followed by a one-hour debriefing session led by the LAC representative. After the first session, adjustments were made based on feedback from both the students and nurses. The subsequent shadow experience allowed for students to be exposed to a variety of locations in two-hour increments, allowing for each student to see three different nursing units in one day. Units observed included general medical-surgical, intensive care, emergency, dialysis, mother-baby, labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care, hyperbaric chamber, cardiac catheterization lab and endoscopy lab.

“Due to students’ involvement in extracurricular and work related activities, we had to cancel the third shadowing session,” Colletti said.

In addition to the job shadowing, students spent time at the Louisiana State University Simulation Lab where they were able to observe nurses respond in mock clinical situations.

At the end of the pilot, each student’s experience was assessed using a survey tool to determine change in knowledge level and understanding of nursing, the various nursing roles and available educational programs. Also, a discussion was held with each student regarding post-graduation plans. All of the students stated that their knowledge level of nursing roles and educational programs had been increased as a result of the pilot. All chose spending time in the various units as the portion of the project they liked the most.

One student dropped out mid-way through the pilot stating that nursing was not for her. Two students are currently enrolled in college with the intent to apply to nursing after pre-requisites are completed and two are still undecided. One of the undecided was, prior to the program, considering a medic certification as his career choice. The pilot program exposed him to the possibility of pursing a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification instead with the thought that he could work as a CNA while going to nursing school.

“We do feel that this pilot project showed us that a mentoring/shadowing experience is a viable option to entice high school students into nursing, but based on our experience we would make some adjustments to any future programs like this,” said Colletti. “We determined we could be more effective working with younger students and shortening the program so it does not interfere with students’ other activities. Working with sophomore or early junior level students in short time frames in a variety of settings appears to be the most effective approach.”

According to Colletti, Hughes and the others involved in the LAC pilot, communication strategies about careers in nursing must be developed for students, parents and high school guidance counselors if we are to truly increase the number of Hispanic nurses.

Pictured in the photo is one of the pilot's mentors, Lorena Villalobos, BSN, MSN, FMP-BC, CMSRN.

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