HCN News & Notes

Elms College Initiative to Improve Health Equity in Western Mass.

CHICOPEE — Elms College has received a new grant of more than $500,000 to improve health equity in Western Mass. by increasing enrollment and graduation rates of academically qualified and disadvantaged Latino students in the baccalaureate nursing program at the college.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Nursing Workforce Diversity Program has awarded Elms College a two-year grant of $566,098, to begin July 1, for the Elms Nurse Scholars (ELNS) Initiative.

ELNS is a comprehensive program that will address multi-level barriers for disadvantaged students, especially Latinos. By developing services and infrastructure to support a pipeline of disadvantaged Latino students, Elms will address systemic, structural, social, physical, academic, and financial barriers that impede economically and educationally disadvantaged — and racially and ethnically diverse — students from seeking, enrolling in, and graduating from the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.

Hampden County, where Elms College is located, has health outcomes that are worse than most peer counties and below the national benchmark. The county also has a growing population of Latinos, with percentages well above the state average; high poverty levels; and a nursing workforce that lacks diversity (currently, only 2{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the workforce is Hispanic). This grant enables the Elms College School of Nursing to greatly impact health equity in the region by increasing the percentage of Latino nurses in the workforce.

“The HRSA Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant is a wonderful opportunity for the School of Nursing to further the mission of Elms College in providing quality education for Latinos and other underrepresented groups, with the goal of increasing diversity in the pipeline to professional nursing and providing quality healthcare to our increasingly diverse population,” said Cheryl Sheils, associate professor of Nursing at Elms College and project director for the grant.

The primary target population for ELNS comprises economically and educationally disadvantaged, including Latino, undergraduate students who have been accepted into Elms College’s traditional four-year BSN program. Secondary and tertiary target populations are disadvantaged Latino high-school students (pre-matriculants) and their parents, respectively.

The ELNS Initiative will focus on increasing enrollment of academically qualified and disadvantaged Latino students in the Elms College baccalaureate nursing program. Additional goals are increasing the first-year retention rate of these students and increasing their four-year graduation rate.

In 2013-14, seven Latino students joined the BSN program at Elms; the goal for 2015-16 is to admit eight new Latino freshmen and another 16 in 2016-17.

Increasing the graduation rate of disadvantaged Latino nursing students starts with improving first-year retention rates. The fall 2012 cohort retained 87.5{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}, and the goal is to increase to 90{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in fall 2015, 92{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in fall 2016, and 94{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} by fall 2017. As for the overall four-year graduation rate of disadvantaged Latino baccalaureate nursing students, the program aims to increase the percentage of graduates from 68{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} to 80{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2019.

In addition to scholarships — a significant incentive for disadvantaged Latino students to remain in school and graduate on time — academic and social support activities will aid students in persisting to graduation. The ELNS Initiative will employ evidence-based practices, as well as two innovative features: a comprehensive, culturally and linguistically sensitive, and sustained engagement of Latino parents prior to and after college matriculation; and a strong academic/professional-society partnership that supports student enrollment, retention, community service, and post-graduation professional goals.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Elms School of Nursing, as we have always strongly valued diversity in our nursing students and graduates,” said Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing and senior project advisor on the grant. “We seek to provide to these students, through this innovative program, a range of supports so that they will be successful in their program of study as well as building their careers.”