When it comes to college colors, traditions, and many times collegiate sports, the nursing deans of UofSC, Clemson, and MUSC may not root for the same team. However, on a deeper level, Deans Jeannette Andrews (UofSC Nursing), Linda Weglicki (MUSC), and Kathleen Valentine (Clemson Nursing) are all team South Carolina. The nursing deans of these three state institutions see the power and benefit of collaborating for the common goal of nursing advancement in South Carolina.
“When state leaders come together, we bring talent, resources, and synergy among our teams to have a greater impact than a single institution,” says Dean Andrews.
The deans believe that competencies enforced during a student’s nursing education have the roots to shape the climate, opportunities, and advancement of nursing in the state. In the past, collaborations have included working together on legislative issues impacting nurses, advancing practicing clinical rotations, and advocating for compensating preceptors. In March, institutions across the country felt the immediate and drastic effects of COVID-19. Intentional collaboration and support became more vital than ever. The deans diligently worked to address the nursing shortage in hospitals and assisted in passing an order giving nursing graduates temporary authorization to practice in order to assist health care facilities in need.
Deeper into the summer, injustice and unrest was felt deeply by many Americans after the deaths of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and several other minority individuals. Students, faculty, and staff across South Carolina felt pained by these tragedies. Many minority students and colleagues directly related to discriminatory treatment of minority groups, while others felt hopeless watching a biased system. The challenging conversations that arose from these incidents gave pause to institutions and required an in-depth examination of racial inequity.
“Diversity, equity, inclusion and compassion are values of the nursing profession,” says Weglicki.
Each institution spent time individually evaluating and revisioning its commitment to its DEI values. The deans listened to the stories and concerns of minority employees and students. A common theme from these crucial discussions and reflections was that more needs to be done. “As nurse leaders, we must lead critical conversations that help each of us understand the forces of racial inequality and plan, intervene and evaluate our progress," says Valentine.
The People of Color Taskforce panel series was born to act towards eradicating systemic racism and bias. The inter-institution taskforce will host a series of panels covering DEI topics impacting nursing professionals and nursing institutions. “The message of the series is that we can do better and should do better to address the systemic challenges and social injustices of our faculty, staff, and students of color face regularly,” says Andrews. The first panel took place in early November and covered essential considerations for recruiting faculty of color. UofSC Nursing hosted the discussion, featuring guest speakers from MUSC, Clemson, and UofSC Nursing. The series will rotate hosts and feature a guest speaker from each institution.
The content of the dialogues will highlight how the mission of DEI impacts all. Topics will speak to individuals in minority groups and, hopefully, push others outside minority groups to self-reflect and advocate for change. The inter-institutional collaboration is committed to advancing the ethical foundations of nursing and upholding the publics' trust in nurses.