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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Mission training

by vicki ritterband

Federal grant prepares CSON students to become nurse leaders

The need for a more diverse nursing workforce is more compelling than ever, says Connell School of Nursing Associate Dean Catherine Read. "People prefer to have nurses who look like them, understand their culture, and speak their language," Read observes. But in a city like Boston, where more than 50 percent of residents are Asian, black, or Latino, only 17 percent of the nurses working in public and community health in the city are racial or ethnic minorities.

Low-income and minority patients, who frequently face barriers to quality health care, tend to live in communities suffering severe nursing shortages—and a dearth of registered nurses who are minorities.

"Health care is never going to be fixed until we have a nursing workforce that complements the diversity of the community," as Read sees it. To that end, she secured federal funds to launch the Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing (KILN) program, a three-year effort that recruits and prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter the public health nursing workforce. The goal is for these students to become nurse leaders who make a difference in underserved communities.

Funded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 2009, KILN recruits top candidates to consider nursing as a career; provides a retention program that offers intense tutoring and mentoring, stipends, scholarships, and grants for expenses such as exam review courses and conference registration fees; and actively prepares students to pursue careers.

Voice recently spoke to four of Boston College's 35 KILN scholars.