Federal grant boosts support, resources for URI nursing students

Pathways to Nursing enrolls students from diverse backgrounds

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Barbara Wolfe, dean of URI College of Nursing, speaks with students admitted to the College’s Pathways to Nursing program. URI photo/Mike Salerno

KINGSTON, R.I., Nov. 9, 2017 — A five-year grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration will enhance a University of Rhode Island program that supports nursing students from historically underrepresented populations, such as those from economically disadvantaged and minority backgrounds.

The Area Health Education Centers grant was recently awarded to Dr. Paul George of Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School Office of Medical Education with URI as a sub-awardee and College of Nursing Dean Barbara Wolfe as principal investigator for the Southern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center. Mary Cloud, URI clinical assistant professor, is project director. The grant also includes the Northern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center, based at the Rhode Island Free Clinic in Providence.

The project’s objectives are to reduce health care inequalities and achieve health equity by increasing the diversity within the nursing workforce while improving individual and community health. URI contributes to these goals through the Pathways to Nursing program, which provides nursing students from underrepresented populations with the resources and support to attain bachelor’s degrees in nursing over five years.

Pathways to Nursing began in 2010 as a partnership between the Southern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center and URI College of Nursing to recruit, support, retain and graduate a diverse group of students. Since its founding, 20 students have completed the program and 26 are enrolled.

The funding allows the College to offer enhanced services to the students, Wolfe said, including the addition of a one-on-one academic coach who will meet weekly with each student at URI’s Academic Enrichment Center.

“This customizable, effective studying approach allows the coach to work with what each student needs when they need it,” David Hayes, director of the Academic Enrichment Center, told a group of 15 Pathways students at a welcome session early in the semester. “And the student has full input into what they need.”

Students in the program also receive mentoring support and resources from URI’s Talent Development Program.

“The support is there. It’s a sign of strength when you ask for support,” Cloud told the students. “It shows you are a serious, motivated student. I am on your side. Be honest with me, and I will be honest with you.”

Wolfe also offered encouragement. “We want you to be successful,” she said. “This is a very important program at the College of Nursing, and you are in a good place. What makes the Pathways Program great is students like you and faculty like Professor Cloud.”

Jennifer Mongeau, a junior nursing student, said that being accepted to the Pathways Program has benefited her greatly. “We are constantly talking and helping each other out. I remember being a freshman and being nervous and scared. It’s a lot of work; just stay focused. It’s not as scary as it seems right now.”

The federal grant also supports mentoring activities, book stipends, funds for global experiential opportunities, support of the Multicultural Student Nurses Association as well as events throughout the year. Another aim of the grant is to increase outreach to the Narragansett Indian Tribal Community, Cloud said.

This grant will significantly enhance the College of Nursing efforts to support students and ultimately contribute to a diverse nursing workforce, she added.