News23ABC In-Depth


Program looks to diversify the nursing workforce to reflect the growing population

Posted: 4:44 PM, May 11, 2022
Updated: 2022-05-12 14:11:24-04
Nurses (FILE)

(KERO) — With the nursing shortage hitting the health industry nationwide, there are efforts to not only help get more nurses but also diversify the incoming workforce. A new partnership is working to develop health care providers that more closely mirror the growingly diverse population in California.

Charity M’samalia Chimwala-Selico is a student and professor at the historically black college Charles R. Drew University. From her perspective, it is easier for patients to trust a provider that shares a cultural understanding.

"We see patients from all sorts of backgrounds and it is important for them to see medical providers and medical students who look and talk just like them," she explains. "Similar foods, similar cultures. They trust you when you let them like 'hey, these foods are very high in sodium, so maybe try this because this as an African American myself.' I have tried it and it does work. Because I am at risk, just as much as they are at risk."

The benefit is not only for the patient. She says it also helps inspire the next generation of nurses.

"Professors who look like us and have experienced a similar background in nursing and bringing us into these spaces is important because it creates community."

The partnership secures spots for students from the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine to a rotation program that is very competitive among nursing students. Once the students finish the rotation and their education, they will be sent to different Dignity Hospitals across the state including in the Central Valley.

The effort also hopes to help with the nursing shortage.

"Increase the numbers of nursing graduates in California specifically and really assist in the placement of these graduates in those areas with an identified need," said Ron Yolo, the executive nursing officer at Dignity Health.

Yolo explains the program goes a step further to prepare high school students interested in nursing by creating a mentorship program. This would help make sure students know the prerequisites and all they have to do to become a nurse.

"We do want to attract a lot of minority and underrepresented communities to say 'hey, take a look at nursing and see if this is something you want to be when you grow up.'"

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Nursing demographics in 2021

According to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, as of 2021, there are 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs) and 950,000 Licensed Practical Nurses/Licensed Vocational Nurses (LPNs/LVNs) in the United States.

There is no significant difference between and LPN and LVN. California and Texas use the term LVN, while other states use LPN.

According to Pacific College, the difference between a RN and LPN/LVN is that LPN/LVN is that an LPN/LVN "requires a less formal program. An LPN performs specific medical duties but is not given the same responsibilities as an RN." In other words, RNs require more education.

The Career Development Institute sites the major differences between an RN and an LPN/LVN:

  • Schooling: RNs require a formal education.
  • Licensing: Both LVNs and RNs are required to become licensed before they can work in the field, but they take different licensing exams.
  • Job Functions: An RN, in general, legally requires less supervision.
  • Salaries: RNs have historically had greater pay opportunities.

Nursing careers make up the largest portion of America’s healthcare professions.

There are 4x as many nurses in the United States as there are physicians.

The median age of a registered nurse is 52 years old.

The RN workforce is:

  • 81% Caucasian
  • 7.2% Asian
  • 6% Black
  • 5.6% Hispanic

The LPN/LVN workforce is:

  • 69.5% Caucasian
  • 5% Asian
  • 17.2% Black
  • 10% Hispanic

In the Pacific region of the U.S. (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii), 30.5% of nurses are people of color, the largest percentage in the country.

9.4% of the RN and 8.1% of the LPN/LVN workforce are men and the number of male nurses has tripled over the past 50 years.