St. Thomas embarks on a bold nursing plan


A nursing shortage that has only been exacerbated by the tensions of a global pandemic is now well into its second year. Some Minnesota colleges are responding with enhanced programs, all of which are necessary.

The University of St. Thomas, however, is taking an ambitious approach that rethinks nursing with the consideration of underserved communities. The heart of this plan is to reach out to these communities for candidate nurses, while training nurses to understand other cultures and the impact their care can have on individual and community health.

“We are a blank slate,” said MayKao Hang, dean of the university Morrison Family College of Health, which will soon offer undergraduate and graduate nursing programs that focus on caring for historically neglected populations, whether they are communities of color or rural areas with their own unique needs. “The vision is informed by a lot of planning and my own experience of the health of life.”

The model stems from groundbreaking work done over the years to examine ways in which nursing might address health disparities, Hang told an editorial writer. “We know that 80% of what influences good health happens outside the walls of hospitals and clinics,” she said.

“Our nursing school is set up to go where people are. It is designed to determine what we can do to create better health outside the hospital, through community work and partnerships. . “

Hang said the school is working to create a partnership with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, so that in addition to traditional hospital internships, there will be clinical rotations that integrate students to provide care for those without- shelter, and with the St. Paul public library system. to help provide health education to children and families. “Students will get everything that is required for accreditation, but much more,” Hang said. “It’s a street level clinical training approach. “

Hang is also keenly aware of the shortage of health care providers in rural areas and the shortcomings of programs that have typically relied on loan cancellation as an incentive to move to rural areas.

“We consider this to be an underserved area,” she said, “so our approach will be to recruit rural students who wish to return and serve the communities they come from.”

To broaden its reach, she said, the school is looking beyond the often strict requirements of traditional nursing school programs. While the school still prefers a 3.0 GPA, “we won’t just be looking at metrics like GPA and SAT scores. We will be looking at life experiences, student characteristics. We want a mind.” change the world “-set of our students.”

There is a desperate need to expand the ranks of nurses in this way, to examine the full range of experiences that can do so much to enrich the profession and the care provided. “Students of color are under-represented in nursing,” Hang said, as are those in rural areas and men in general. The school aims to have around a third of its students from these historically under-represented areas.

The benefits, she says, will be many. “For example,” she said, “if you look at the shortages in central Minnesota, it’s really bad. The dynamics of practice in a rural community are very different. We want to attract students who want to to be in those areas, not just for a few years until their loans are canceled. They will enjoy being there because they grew up there and want to serve this community. The same goes for immigrant communities, refugees and communities of color, Hang said.

To ensure success, she said, “we are currently working to raise funds for scholarships and nursing supports that will help with counseling and mentoring programs. Our job is to ensure that the learning takes place for our students, not to create barriers to ‘remove’ them. ‘”

Hang is no stranger to this kind of pioneering approach. Former President and CEO of The Wilder Foundation, she was known for developing large-scale community initiatives, with a strong emphasis on racial equity and systemic and generational change. As the first dean of St. Thomas School of Health, she brings those same skills, vision and passion, and nursing will fare better.


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