Committed to growing the next generation of nurses who Care, Lead and Inspire, the College of Nursing is dedicated to fostering an environment that strongly supports of diversity, inclusion and equity. Jeanne-Marie Stacciarini, associate dean for diversity, inclusion and engagement and associate professor, has helped lead the college in reaffirming its pledge to prepare the next generation of socially conscious and innovative nurse leaders through launching several new diversity initiatives while continuing to expand existing ones.
“We don’t just talk; we walk ahead of the curve to lead change,” Stacciarini said. “We must express our core values of diversity, respect and courage in our thoughts but also in our actions.”
Foundation for change
Faculty and staff set the example by creating a Social Justice Steering Committee to advocate for racial and structural equality in the College of Nursing. Established to recommend systemic changes for the college, the working group is now a permanent council for diversity, inclusion and social justice, with a mission to keep mobilizing a culture of equity within the three-part mission of education (curriculum), research and community engagement.
To celebrate the efforts of faculty, the College of Nursing created the Diversity and Inclusion Award. This year, Staja “Star” Booker, PhD, RN, an assistant professor, was honored with the inaugural award for fostering diversity and inclusion
in the areas of teaching, research and service.
In 2016, the college launched an undergraduate mentoring program called “Engaging Multiple-communities of BSN students in Research and Academic Curricular Experience,” or EMBRACE, to engage traditionally underrepresented undergraduate nursing students in research. Faculty and Gator Nurse alumni serve as mentors to guide students throughout their professional journey and show the need for nurse research leaders who can make a significant impact in the health care system.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in four diverse interest groups, such as Men in Nursing, LGBTQ+ in Nursing, International Nursing and Multicultural Nursing. Under the leadership of a graduate student and a faculty mentor, these groups allow students to learn about different identities and offer opportunities for networking, mentoring and professional development.
But when racial inequity took center stage in the minds of millions, Gator Nursing students went above and beyond to answer the call for change. Created in direct response to the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020, Traditional and Accelerated BSN students founded the college’s newest student organization, Nurses Leading Change, bearing the same commitment as the National Academy of Medicine’s Future of Nursing 2020-2030 framework for nurse leadership. The group is now a permanent fixture in the college, has partnered with faculty to improve inclusivity in nursing courses, and has worked to serve the community through educating the medically vulnerable GRACE Marketplace community about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“NLC has shaped my entire nursing school experience,” said inaugural president Chris Torres (BSN 2021). “It’s the desire we, as students, have to learn more and continuously educate ourselves that fuels this organization.”
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, the College of Nursing is committed to fostering inclusive, thought-provoking conversations for building capacity to handle difficult topics.
Faculty, staff, researchers and students have the opportunity to participate in a monthly dialogue, “Think Collectively About Diversity,” to discuss how to speak with students about racism and address microaggressions in both the clinical and classroom learning environments. The college’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement has also coordinated inclusive presentations at multiple virtual events, such as the spring’s Nursing Research Summit and Malasano’s Lectureship and a continuing education course, “Unpacking Our Biases: Exploring the Relationship Between Conscious and Unconscious Bias and Microaggressions,” to help future Gator Nurses learn how to address social determinants of health and provide equitable care.
Gator Nurses were also able to hear from several guest speakers from the beginning of their nursing careers, including Black nurses sharing their lived experiences in the profession during the BSN Convocation to nurse researchers developing new ways to make clinical simulations more culturally representative of the “real” world.
Outside our walls
The college’s push to promote diversity and inclusion is not limited to within its own walls.
To engage with the University of Florida as a whole, the college is plugged into the academic health center’s “inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible” community. Collaborating with the other five health colleges and the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the College of Nursing helps develop new ways for students to feel included in the health professions. The college has offered student resources, such as underrepresented student scholarships, professional development opportunities and a podcast to amplify the experiences of Black researchers and research professionals throughout the university.
Similarly, the college works with the academic health center to participate in the Keys to Success enrichment program. Through this initiative, first-year Black Gator Nursing students have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with UF Health faculty and students, helping create a community that encourages growth, wellness and a sense of belonging.
At a national level, the college has been recognized for its exceptional work toward making nursing a more inclusive profession. In spring 2021, the College of Nursing was featured in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s online newsletter, “Diversity Digest,” highlighting a commitment to diversity in clinical practice and community engagement during a challenging 2020.