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Nursing Faculty Emphasize Culturally Competent Health Care

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by Lois Elfman


Dr. Danita R. Potter is associate dean and an associate professor in the School of Nursing at Grambling State University.

Dr. Danita R. Potter is associate dean and an associate professor in the School of Nursing at Grambling State University.

With today’s nurses working in a rapidly changing health care landscape, emerging faculty educate their nursing students about issues that impact patient care and bring health care to underserved communities.

One of Dr. Kyeongra Yang’s goals in the community health courses she teaches is to guide her students to be more culturally competent in providing care to underserved minority populations. She says she’s noticed that, while students are well aware of what culturally competent care is from an intellectual perspective, some of them don’t achieve it in practical application.

“I should acknowledge that I would be more sensitive because I myself am a minority; however, I often notice that some of their communication styles are not sensitive enough to respect others and still reflect some biased views on different cultures,” says Yang, an assistant professor at the Lienhard School of Nursing at Pace University.

“I hope my nursing students can learn that culturally competent care is not about knowledge, but more about a matter of attitude,” she adds. “I want to be a facilitator and good role model.”

Technology in the workplace

The students in Yang’s community health nursing course are seniors who are about to graduate and are very focused on where to start their careers. She realizes many think community health nursing is not for them, rather seeing themselves in a hospital setting. She tries to provide opportunities for students to think about practicing nursing in various settings beyond hospitals.

“They may see their patients only at a hospital, but their patients’ lives do not end there and must go on with health conditions at their real world, such as home, occupational setting, etc.,” says Yang, whose research includes prevention and management of diabetes and underserved and minority populations. “I hope I can help broaden our students’ perspective on nursing, care coordination and public health.”

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Nardalyn Johnson, an academic instructor in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s undergraduate nursing program as well as a consultant to hospitals and medical practices, provides informatics education. She teaches nursing students how to effectively integrate technology to help manage patient care in nursing practice.

Recent legislation, like the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health), enacted in 2009 to support the adoption and use of health information technology, has impacted the electronic health systems in hospitals.

“Technology has evolved very rapidly in the last five years, and we’ve seen information technology promulgate throughout our health care system,” says Johnson. “The next generation [of nurses] must understand how they will need to integrate it into the nursing process and how they deliver care to the patients.

“I believe that the next generation must have the necessary skills to be able to survive in the workplace,” she adds. “We want to use [technology]. The issue is how do you not become overdependent on it so when it’s not there you struggle to care for your patients. We want to ensure that the issue of over-relying doesn’t become a problem, so we need to create that balance.”

Career opportunities

Just as Johnson built her career by combining her IT background with nursing, she is helping today’s nursing students explore different career opportunities. She mentions emerging health care options, such as telemedicine and mobile health, as new fields that will need qualified personnel. Underserved rural communities will have increased access to health care thanks to these technologies, but an infrastructure needs to be put in place to meet the needs.

“We’re collecting information every day,” Johnson says. “[We must analyze] how we can use that in terms of evidence-based practice to improve and enhance the health of our patients.”

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When Dr. Danita R. Potter returned to her alma mater, Grambling State University, she set about getting the School of Nursing’s programs nationally reaccredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Thanks to her work, that continuing national accreditation was put in place through 2020.

Unfortunately, in June, the Louisiana State Board of Nursing retracted conditional approval of Grambling’s undergraduate degree in nursing. National accreditation is based on overall quality of nursing education, while state accreditation is usually based on pass rates on the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). Louisiana requires states to maintain an 80 percent rate and Grambling fell below the required number. This led to the closure of the bachelor’s program.

Potter’s role will now involve teaching in other areas of the university as well as working with administration to restore the bachelor’s program. The graduate nursing programs remain in effect and have state and national accreditation.

“I feel like my role in particular, being an African-American woman who has graduated from all HBCUs, is bigger than the average person,” Potter says. She thrives on mentoring students, encouraging them to participate in service learning, seeing them pursue public health work and ultimately returning to graduate school to further their impact on their communities.

Potter’s research interests include Black family health, teenage mothers’ perceptions and the stigma of mental health issues in African-American families. A former public health nurse, she says she feels a personal responsibility to help educate the public on mental health issues, going so far as to call in to a radio station to correct a disc jockey who had trivialized a story about a mentally ill person.

“We, in the African-American community, need to take psych mental health more seriously than ever before,” Potter says.

Dr. Michael P. Cary, an assistant professor in the Duke University School of Nursing, came to nursing a­fter graduating college with a Bachelor of Science degree in health services administration. When the health insurance company where he worked as a quality consultant restructured and he lost his job, Cary chose to enter an accelerated bachelor’s of nursing program and start a new career.

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A­fter earning a BSN at the University of Virginia, he worked as a nurse and assistant director in a senior living community. This married well with Cary’s interest in gerontology — caring for older adults and their families. He went on to complete his master’s and doctorate and now, through his research and teaching, Cary is on the frontlines of shaping care for America’s aging population.

“As a nurse scientist, I systematically investigate health care problems and generate evidence that is clinically relevant for informing the care of older adults and their families,” Cary says. “As a gerontological nurse and educator in [Duke’s] pre-licensure program, I have the opportunity to discuss with students the current and projected changes in future generations of older people and the implications for health care and the clinical evidence derived from systematic research, and encourage them to utilize evidence to inform the care of their patients.”

Cary interacts with his nursing students in the classroom and while engaging in research. He sees himself as a scholar, career adviser and leader helping guide his students. He, too, addresses the use of technology to provide data that can help shape patient care. Cary sees diversity and inclusion as a core value, and curriculum should include threads such as health access and disparities.

“We know there are a growing number of older adults — many are underserved — in America and among this aging population are increasing numbers of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural groups,” he says. “Given these facts, employing strategies to foster critical thinking and evidence-based decision-making is necessary to meet the health care needs of underserved and aging populations.”

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