Grant helps attract underprivileged students to nursing careers - Higher Education
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Grant helps attract underprivileged students to nursing careers

by WSU News Service

On a recent Saturday morning, nine Rogers High School students interested in nursing careers got a crash course in computer research.

As they sat in front of terminals in the WSU Spokane Nursing building, campus library director Bob Pringle asked each of them to pick a health sciences-related topic to explore. He showed them how to search medical databases to find media articles and studies.

Then he warns them about the rules for using materials they find.

“Has anyone heard the term ‘plagiarism’?” Pringle asked. “If you’re going to use copyrighted material, you have to make sure you give the author’s credit.”

Students nod as they sift through articles on topics such as childbirth and diabetes.

The students are taking this class thanks to a new $894,550, three-year workforce diversity grant from the federal Health Resources Service Administration.

“The purpose is to get more ‘disadvantaged’ students into nursing,” College of Nursing Professor Janet Katz said.

Rogers educates students in the poorest legislative district in Washington. Katz says it was deemed a disadvantaged school in part because of its low SAT scores and high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

Katz said she is using the grant to pay $500 stipends to these students, as well as to 10 students at each of five other schools with high poverty rates in eastern and central Washington: Pasco High School and Davis High School in Yakima, as well as Heritage University in Toppenish and Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley colleges.

For that money, students agree to attend eight half-day Saturday sessions this spring and a two-week summer camp on the WSU Pullman campus.

In addition, Katz said the grant funds $4,000 tuition stipends for 10 WSU nursing students pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

“We want to help them get their four-year degrees, pass their licensing exams and get out there and practice,” she said.

Katz hopes some will wind up practicing in areas where nurses are in short supply. For example, research shows Native American nurses go back to serve Native populations, Danica Parkin, a Colville tribal member who recently earned her WSU bachelor’s degree in nursing and is working on a graduate degree as a family nurse practitioner, said.

Rogers sophomore Maria Garcia said she’s attending the Saturday sessions because she wants to learn more about what she’ll need to do to become a nurse. Garcia has had success in science classes and enjoys chemistry. She’s considering applying to WSU to study nursing.

College of Nursing Professor Sandra Benevides-Vaello said the Saturday classes are meant to show students what makes great nurses. They include visits by WSU nursing students with different ethnic backgrounds.

“We want to show them nursing is an attainable career for them and give them the academic and social support they need,” she said.

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