January 2024

Nursing Working to Eradicate Educational Structural Racism

January 23, 2024    |  

The University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) has been awarded a grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation aimed at tackling systemic racial inequities in nursing education.

The $7,500 grant, “Eliminating Structural Racism in Nursing Academia: A Systems Change Approach to Anti-Racist Nursing Education,” covers a three-year period. UMSON is one of only 12 nursing schools in the country to receive the grant.

Yvette Conyers, DNP, RN, FNP-C, CTN-B, CFCN, CFCS, assistant professor and associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), said she is grateful UMSON was chosen.

“I was happy and thankful that we are going to be leading the efforts with the other 11 schools in this work and creating and sustaining that national presence,” Conyers said.

The nursing schools participating in the national project will form a learning collaborative to develop projects to address structural racism and promote anti-racist nursing educational environments at their respective institutions. The learning collaborative will meet monthly to report on the status of their projects as well as to learn from one another and receive feedback. Each school will develop and implement projects at their own institutions using the performance results from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) Leading Across Multidimensional Perspectives (LAMP) Survey. Last year, UMSON was selected to participate in “Building a Culture of Belonging in Academic Nursing,” a national initiative to foster inclusive learning environments in schools of nursing. Pilot schools in that program provided school-specific data to AACN and, in return, received LAMP survey action reports in areas such as:   

  • curriculum and pedagogy
  • inclusion and belonging of students of color
  • inclusion and belonging of faculty and staff of color
  • academic culture/environment
  • clinical environment

“This continues to show our commitment to EDI, but specifically this is about structural racism and nursing academia,” Conyers said. “This really allows us to have a little bit tougher conversations.” 

UMSON is uniquely positioned to contribute to this work as an institution within the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), which serves as Maryland’s public health, law, and human services university, Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD ’11, MS ’05, BSN ’04, NNP, FNAP, FAAN, the Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, wrote in a letter of support included in the grant application. 

“UMB confers the majority of professional practice doctoral degrees awarded in Maryland; it is a thriving academic health center with an exceptional relationship with the neighboring University of Maryland Medical Center as well as with the other facilities in the University of Maryland Medical System,” she stated. “As such, the School of Nursing has access to a broad array of resources and collegial support that extends beyond our individual school.”

Also, due to UMB’s commitment to interprofessional education, “I anticipate that the experience and learning opportunities that UMSON would gain through this project would be of great interest to and have applicability to the other professional disciplines represented on our campus, extending its impact,” Ogbolu wrote.

UMSON has a longstanding commitment to EDI. Over the past decade, it has experienced tremendous growth in the diversity of its student population. In 2013, 37 percent of UMSON students identified as racially or ethnically diverse. By fall 2023, that number reached 60 percent. Ogbolu noted that faculty and staff have also become increasingly diverse; over a five-year period, beginning in 2018, faculty identifying as racially or ethnically diverse increased from 23 percent to 35 percent, and during the same period, the diversity of UMSON staff increased from 34 percent to 47 percent. 

The learning collaborative held an introductory meeting virtually in November and will meet in person at the AACN Diversity Symposium in February in New Orleans. The 12 schools chosen represent public and private universities and are from geographically diverse regions of the country.

The project’s two co-investigators are from the University of Cincinnati. In addition to UMSON, the learning collaborative comprises:

•    Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio
•    Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston
•    Jefferson University College of Nursing at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia
•    Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
•    University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa
•    University of Alabama at Birmingham
•    University of New Mexico in Albuquerque
•    University of South Florida in Tampa
•    Washington State University Pullman
•    Western Governors University in Salt Lake City

“I’m excited to learn from them all,” Conyers said. “And to have them learn from us. We are not new to this. We are true to this. I am eager to share how we have been able to sustain and further the conversation.”