The CON spoke with African American alumni, students, and faculty to discuss barriers, successes, and more in the African American nursing community.
Coretta Jenerette, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity and Professor,
How does the College of Nursing promote diversity and inclusivity?
The College of Nursing promotes diversity and inclusivity with initiatives and resources aimed at supporting our belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion are necessary to achieve academic and institutional excellence. Specific initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion for students include a transition to holistic progression from lower to upper division for undergraduate students as well as holistic admissions across graduate programs. We are also intentionally making sure students are exposed to content and activities that provide an understanding of the social determinants of health as well as their role in mitigating the negative effects of these factors. The Carolina Cares Cupboard is a resource providing students with food, professional clothing, personal care items, and financial support. In additional to DEI focused lectures and training, faculty and staff are also encouraged to take part in initiatives such as walking tours with the Dean and Associate Dean of DEI as well as smaller CONversations to increase communication and understanding as all members of the CON community matter and we seek to hear and understand unique perspectives.
Quenton Washington, CON Junior
What activities are you involved in on campus that provide positive experiences for
African American Students?
I hold the proud position of being the secretary of B.O.N.D. or Brothers of Nubian Descent. This organization aims to create and enhance the community of African American men on our campus through bi-weekly meetings, community service, and multiple events throughout the school year catered to not only our members but the general public as well. I am also a member of M.O.S.T., which is the Multicultural Outreach Student Team. This program is dedicated to recruiting minority students that are not yet enrolled in the university. Being a member of this initiative has been so uplifting and rewarding. I have the privilege of giving tours, serving as a summer counselor, speaking on various panels, and enjoying organizational meetings alongside other driven minority students with similar goals for this university and our community as myself.
Lisa Davis, President, Midlands of SC Black Nurses Association, Inc.
How do you promote diversity in nursing?
I am promoting diversity in nursing by serving as the founding President of the Midlands of South Carolina Black Nurses Association, Inc. It is important to support minority nurses and nursing students, to ensure a diverse nursing workforce and promote health equity. Through our Chapter’s three strategic priorities (leadership development, mentoring and advocacy), we are growing nurse leaders who will: provide high-quality, culturally competent nursing care; contribute to a diverse nursing workforce that ideally, reflects the demographics of the community served; and equip them to participate on boards and committees where health care decisions are made and policies formed.
Eboni Harris, Clinical Associate Professor, UofSC Nursing
What are barriers that African American Nurses face?
When I think about barriers that African American Nurses face, it doesn’t vary much from barriers that African Americans face in general. African American nurses and nursing students deal with bias and often experience microagressions in the workplace. A major challenge for nurses of color along with other minority nurses is the problem of being the “only” in their workplace. This feeling like not having anyone who can identify with you or someone who experiences similar challenges is isolating and sometimes leads to nurses leaving the profession. Currently African American nurses make up only 9.9% of the workforce despite the US population reflecting 12% African Americans. In light of the current nursing shortage, it is imperative to recruit and retain African American nurses in the profession.
Lori Vick, Clinical Associate Professor, UofSC Nursing
Why is it important for nursing to be inclusive and diverse?
Nursing as a scholarly profession is enhanced and made complete by being inclusive. Nurses from diverse backgrounds reflect the populations we serve. When nurses share values and beliefs with one another and the people we serve, we have an opportunity to create an ethos of understanding that supports cultural competence. Culturally competent caregiving is comforting to our patients and has fostered the trust between patient and nurse.
Kennedy Golden, CON freshman & Honors College Student
We understand you are interested in nursing research- what is your area of interest?
My research interest is the stigma against mental health in African American culture and society, as well as the coping mechanisms. This is my research interest because the topic of mental heath in black culture is very taboo, and education on this topic can improve the overall mental wellness of African American college.
Sheryl Mitchell, Director, FNP Program and Clinical Associate Professor, UofSC Nursing
How do you break barriers as an African American nurse?
Breaking barriers involves being strategic. The barriers that have been broken must be recognized because there is an opportunity to learn from how someone else broke the barrier. The existing barriers must be identified, and it must be determined why it is a barrier for what is trying to be accomplished. Mentors are essential to breaking barriers. Having someone who has achieved what you are trying to obtain can make accomplishing the barriers less challenging. They can help to identify your strengths that will assist in overcoming the barrier. They can identify weaknesses that may add difficulty in breaking the barrier.
Joy Jackson, Director, RN-BSN Program and Clinical Assistant Professor, UofSC Nursing
How does your research impact African Americans?
My research focuses on African American women and breastfeeding. Breast cancer incidence in African Americans living in the U.S. is fairly high. Research shows a direct linkage of lower breast cancer rates in women who choose to breastfeed. African American women however report the lowest statistics in choosing to breastfeed their infant. This one piece of vital information could make the difference in breast cancer incidence in African American women and support healthier babies. Breastfeeding encourages a connection between mother and child while providing substantial nutritional and health benefits to the baby. My goal is to educate and support African American women to make the best and most informed choice about how they choose to feed their newborn. While everyone cannot or may not choose to breastfeed, they will at least have the education needed to make the best choice for them.