Temple University and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation announced a new collaboration to bring more students of color to Temple’s nursing program at a press conference at Charles Library on Oct. 12, according to a press release.
Temple received funding from IBC to promote nursing as a career path in local high schools, bring local high school students to Temple and award them four-year scholarships, wrote IBC President Rev. Lorina Marshall-Blake, in an email to The Temple News.
“The Foundation understands the importance of a nursing workforce that reflects the population it serves,” Marshall-Blake wrote.
A diverse workforce is essential to ensure that healthcare workers can work with diverse communities and advocate for their patients, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
IBC provided the nursing department with about $500,000 for the scholarships and $754,000 for support costs, said Mary Terhaar, the chair of the College of Public Health. More funds may be awarded in the future if more students qualify for the program.
The scholarship was awarded to five students this year, Terhaar said. If the program is successful, more scholarships may be given out in the future.
Students must meet the admissions criteria for the nursing program before they are eligible for the scholarship, Terhaar added.
First-year applicants to the nursing program must have a 3.25 minimum high school GPA and own a laptop, according to Temple’s nursing admissions website. Transfer students must have a 3.5 minimum GPA for college-level coursework.
Students who earn the scholarship will also receive support and tutoring from faculty to help them navigate college, because many students are coming from underserved communities and face additional financial challenges, Terhaar added.
They will also be guaranteed a paid internship between their junior and senior years and a job offer from Temple University Hospital after they complete their internship, Terhaar said.
The goal is to give students practical nursing experience while alleviating any financial burdens they may have, Terhaar added.
“What we need is diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of experience that produces a diversity of thought is likely to come up with richer, more responsive solutions that are better suited to the needs of the community,” Terhaar said.
Jennifer Brown, a nursing professor, meets with the scholarship recipients as a group and individually to discuss which courses they need to take and assist them with time management because all of the current scholarship recipients are balancing schoolwork with other jobs, Brown said.
“We’ve come to a place where I get to really identify what their individual needs are and trying to help them to be successful,” Brown added.
Temple’s scholarship outreach will involve bringing Temple alumni to local public schools to speak to high school students about nursing during winter and summer breaks, Brown said. Students will also have the chance to visit Temple and shadow nurses on Temple’s campus.
Part of the summer break programming will involve training for students entering the nursing program, Terhaar said.
Akasha Thomas, a freshman nursing major, is usually the only Black person in her classes, she said.
Her white classmates don’t always understand how racism in the medical community affects Black people and their willingness to seek medical treatment, she added.
“It’s important for people of color to see other people of color in health fields because they get to connect more, we get to have a voice,” Thomas said.
More nursing students at Temple will also help with the nursing shortage in the United States, Brown said.
The current nursing shortage began in 2012 and is expected to last until 2030 due to an aging population that has an increased need for healthcare, Healthline reported. Baby Boomers are the largest generation in America and there are not enough nurses to provide care for them as they continue to age.
Nursing students from Temple have previously been awarded scholarships from the Nurses for Tomorrow program, which is also run by the IBC, Marshall-Blake wrote.
The Nurses for Tomorrow program has provided scholarships to more than 3,000 nursing undergraduate, graduate and doctoral nursing students in southeastern Pennsylvania, according to the IBC’s website.
Approximately 40 students from Temple’s nursing program have participated in the Nursing Internship Program, which prepares nursing students in the undergraduate program to give culturally sensitive care to medically underserved communities, Marshall-Blake wrote.
Terhaar hopes that the IBC collaboration will help make the workforce more diverse and that diversity will help build trust in the health care system, she said.
“We’ve got to be better about bringing diversity into the workforce,” Terhaar added. “It just makes it easier for people to trust health care providers.”