By 2035, the world will be short nearly 13 million health care workers, including more than a million registered nurses (RNs). In the U.S., nurses from diverse backgrounds remain underrepresented in the health care workforce, with non-Hispanic whites making up 83 percent of nurses. These combined factors have major implications for the health of billions worldwide.
Lindsey Ryan, manager of innovation and performance excellence at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, took this to heart. She developed a weeklong immersion experience, dubbed "I Inspire," to give a diverse group of high school students the chance to learn about nursing directly from those in the field.
The birth of I Inspire
Ryan's goal for I Inspire was twofold: to increase the number of RNs in East San Diego County and to increase the diversity of the nursing workforce.
To qualify for the program, students must be in good academic standing and entering their senior year within East San Diego County. They also must be a permanent resident or have U.S. citizenship, and speak fluent English in addition to either Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, Turkish or Dari. Lindsey partnered with License to Freedom, a local nonprofit that advocates for and empowers immigrants and refugees in San Diego County, to recruit participants.
"With such serious workforce shortages, it is crucial for health care organizations to be proactive in recruiting a diverse generation of future nurses," Ryan says. "A more diverse workforce will help better meet current and future needs and provide more culturally relevant care for patients."
A unique learning experience
Each morning of the weeklong program, Sharp Grossmont team members shared personal stories of their nursing journeys. They could relate to the students' experiences in some way, each being either an immigrant or refugee themselves. Nurses from Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Malaysia, Scotland, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam offered their insights throughout the week. Students then shadowed nurses in outpatient, acute and critical care; surgical services; women's health; and administration settings.
Daily meet-and-greet luncheons with representatives from local colleges and universities exposed students to a wide variety of nursing programs and degrees, as well as the processes for pursuing each track. Representatives from Point Loma Nazarene University, National University, CSU San Marcos, Grossmont College and the University of San Diego provided lunch and educated students on how to apply for nursing school, different program options and what types of testing are required.
Lastly, students created community-based education projects on topics chosen from the Sharp HealthCare community needs assessment. In small groups, the students performed research and created poster presentations and handouts on obesity, mental health, diabetes and heart health. They then shared these projects at both Sharp Grossmont Hospital and a community health fair in El Cajon.
At the end of the week, students "graduated" from the I Inspire program during a special ceremony. Before the program began, parents were asked to write letters about the hopes and dreams they have for their children; at the beginning of the graduation ceremony, time was allotted for students to read their personal letters.
"We are overjoyed to be able to provide this opportunity to students who might not otherwise get so much firsthand information, especially in this unique format," says Ryan. "Our hope is that they leave here inspired, and that ultimately this leads them to pursue a career in nursing. We'd love to see some of these students working at Sharp one day."
Learn more about careers at Sharp HealthCare.
For the news media: To talk with Lindsey Ryan about I Inspire for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.