January 2023

Nursing Fosters Inclusive Learning Environment

January 13, 2023    |  

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), inclusive learning environments and a sense of belonging are essential to the development of future nurses, and both have an impact on a nurse’s career trajectory. Students of color often have college experiences that are significantly different from most of their peers, which can lead to lower graduation rates.

To help address this disparity, AACN has initiated an 18-month project titled Building a Culture of Belonging in Academic Nursing. With funding from Johnson & Johnson, AACN designed this national initiative to collect and analyze data they believe can lead to more inclusive learning environments and build a more diverse nursing workforce. Following a call for pilot schools that netted nearly 250 applicants, the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) was one of 50 schools of nursing in 28 states AACN chose to participate in the pilot.

Participating pilot schools are geographically diverse and represent a range of institutional types (public and private; small and large; rural and urban, etc.). AACN chose the pilot schools based on the organization’s desire to generalize the survey process for any nursing school that may want to use this information and conduct their own culture and climate surveys.

Assessing Climate and Culture

AACN is collecting this information from the pilot schools with the goal of helping schools of nursing across the country:

  • Create environments where students, faculty, and staff of diverse races/ethnicities, gender identities, ages, sexual orientation, etc., feel strongly that they belong and are encouraged to thrive
  • Improve connections among students, school, and community
  • Achieve their diversity, equity, and inclusion-related goals.

To assess the experiences of diverse nursing students and identify the practices that facilitate their success, AACN developed a digital platform that UMSON and the other pilot schools have committed to testing and using. The platform will provide nursing schools access to the AACN Leading Across Multidimensional Perspectives (LAMP) Culture and Climate Survey and resulting action reports. The platform will allow AACN to collect data from all the pilot schools around perceptions in:

  • Fair treatment and observations of discrimination
  • Belonging
  • Value of diversity and inclusion
  • Campus services
  • Clinical training

In return for providing school-specific data, pilot schools will receive a range of support from AACN that could include programmatic support as well as institution-level assessments and action reports.

AACN is driven by the idea that by developing a better understanding of how campus environments impact student success, educators can initiate change, target areas of growth, and improve student outcomes. AACN will use the data it collects to identify best practices and success strategies that schools can use to improve belongingness for students and faculty, particularly those from communities of color, and will disseminate these findings to schools of nursing through a variety of channels.

With a clearer understanding of how campus climate influences student experiences and achievement, schools of nursing can develop plans to address concerns and issues, to embrace inclusive excellence, and to develop more inclusive academic environments.

Next Steps

AACN has begun providing access to the LAMP survey and action reports.

As a pilot school, UMSON can set how it wishes to administer the survey and select dates for data collection and the length of time the survey remains open.

UMSON will be distributing the LAMP survey to entering and returning students, differentiating between the two groups, at the Baltimore and Universities at Shady Grove (USG) locations, and to faculty and staff at both locations at the end of January, when the spring 2023 semester begins. The survey will remain open for several weeks.

Each pilot school selected a site administrator to be its point of contact with AACN and to manage the electronic distribution of surveys for the school. UMSON’s site administrator is Veronica Gutchell, DNP ’13, RN, CNS, CRNP, assistant professor and director, Wellmobile and school-based wellness programs, working in conjunction with Jeffrey Ash, EdD, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at USG.

“The AACN LAMP survey will provide UMSON with essential information to help us continue the work of creating a learning environment that wholly supports diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Gutchell said. “Our participation will facilitate collaborative efforts between UMSON and other schools of nursing nationwide to develop strategies to strengthen our work toward integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work and learning at the school.”

After finishing each individual school report, AACN will aggregate findings and prepare a final report, which will be made available to all pilot schools and shared nationally.