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EMBRACE Promotes Cultural Sensitivity, Workforce Diversity in Nursing

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When university personnel review applications for admissions to its nursing programs, how can they find students with attributes like empathy, social justice and cultural sensitivity?

The answer may be EMBRACE: Enrichment Markers of Better Relationships, Academics and Cultural Enhancement, a program funded by an approximate $2 million, four-year grant awarded in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Resources and Services Administration Division of Nursing.

“By looking beyond or in addition to GPA and test scores, we believe we can capture additional student attributes like empathy, critical thinking and advocacy,” says Stephanie Vaughn, professor emeritus of nursing and project director of EMBRACE. “We can build on such attributes to create a strong professional nursing workforce that is culturally sensitive to the needs of Orange County’s diverse communities.”

What begins at admissions continues throughout their nursing education at Cal State Fullerton. “We want to make sure we are admitting and retaining students who reflect those aforementioned attributes and become nurse leaders — both formally and informally — in our community.”

Now in its third year, EMBRACE offers nursing students resources to assist them in their academic journey: an academic coach, a writing center, a nurse coach to help with life balance and peer mentoring, as well as scholarships. Through EMBRACE, the School of Nursing  has provided more than $300,000 in scholarships to students in need over the last two years.

In addition, EMBRACE supports cultural competence training for faculty and staff members, and program evaluation for each component. These concepts have been threaded through nursing courses and have been evident in shared governance activities with the school’s  student leaders.

Also under EMBRACE, the school now offers an annual diversity and inclusion symposium focusing on such topics as ethnicity, religion, sexuality and gender expression (See sidebar).

The symposium, open to the campus community, “is an area that has really grown,” Vaughn adds, noting that the symposium is under the direction of Sharrica Miller, assistant professor of nursing, and the 2019 recipient of the university’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Award.

In evaluating progress towards the EMBRACE goals, the school regularly collects data, including student survey and focus group results, to ensure the initiated programs and resources are indeed supporting students and championing cultural sensitivity in the profession.

“We want to not only grow, but sustain the resources that we have developed that help students manage the stressors of nursing school, and become culturally sensitive and competent practitioners,” says Vaughn. “And we are seeing positive results.”