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Macy Faculty Scholar Roberta Waite on the Minority Nurse Shortage

Philadelphia, PA

Roberta Waite of Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions discusses her work as a 2011 Macy Faculty Scholar on career development for underrepresented nursing students.

Q:  Why are you focusing on culturally diverse nursing students as a Macy Faculty Scholar?
Waite:  African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans make up about 25 percent of the population in the United States but that rich diversity is not reflected in the ranks of nursing schools. Right now, for example, African Americans make up 12 percent of the population but just 5 percent of the nation’s registered nurses. Unless we take action today, that shortfall will continue and will affect the nation’s ability to provide culturally sensitive, high quality care. In fact, a 2010 Institute of Medicine report urges the nursing profession to step up efforts to recruit and effectively train minority nursing students. My goal is to better prepare a diverse group of nursing students for leadership and mentoring roles that will help attract and retain more African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and even men to the field.

Q:  How will your project influence or improve the education of nursing students from diverse cultural backgrounds?
Waite:  In the past, nursing students, including minorities, were not expressly trained to develop leadership skills. Under this system, nurses that ended up in leadership positions, like managers, supervisors, or department directors and deans in schools of nursing, did so by trial and error or as a result of length of service. My project will explicitly support the development of leadership skills starting with each individual nurse. Students will also participate in clinical learning activities at an urban community-based health care center, where they will be exposed to culturally competent practices for underserved populations and develop inter-professional skills. Preparing students for diverse leadership roles is critical since 55 percent of our current nurse leaders plan to retire between 2011 and 2020. This proactive approach will accelerate the development of culturally diverse nurses who are poised to take on leadership positions in the future. 

Q: What motivates you personally to take on this project?
Waite: My mother was a registered nurse but suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, a joint disease which cut short her career. Nonetheless, she passed on to me her passion for nursing and served as my first role model of a strong leader. She was my mentor and champion at every step of my career from college through post-graduate work. So I have personally experienced the huge value in having an experienced nurse as a role model for my career. I would like to pass that legacy of leadership on to others.

Meet the 2011 Macy Faculty Scholars

Learn more about the Macy Faculty Scholars Program

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