African American non-nursing science majors' perceptions of nursing in the context of career ideals

Alexander, Robbi K.
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University of Delaware
The racial/ethnic distribution of the Registered Nurse workforce (African Americans 5.4%) differs substantially from the United States population (African Americans 13.1%), contributing to ongoing health disparities. Much of the nursing education literature that addresses the recruitment of nursing students from underrepresented minority groups focuses on the support and retention of disadvantaged and academically underprepared students. It has been suggested that a career in nursing is not the path to upward social and professional mobility that it once was for African American women, and it is unknown how a career in nursing is perceived by African American students with science interest and aptitude. A qualitative descriptive study was employed to explore the perceptions of nursing held by African American undergraduate non-nursing science majors within the context of their career ideals. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 20 African American undergraduate non-nursing science majors. Qualitative data collection techniques and three interactive processes of analysis (data condensation, data display, drawing and verifying conclusions) were employed. Results indicate that for this group of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) oriented African American non-nursing science majors, the most desirable career is physician. They view this career as offering one the power to (a) live and work with a high degree of choice and autonomy, (b) help others and personally affect change, (c) be a positive role model of African American culture and (d) disprove negative stereotypes about African Americans. The participants in this study generally indicated that they value nurse caring and the nurse-patient relationship; however, they perceived nursing, in comparison to their ideal careers, to be a profession with limited respect, power, and desirability. Participants do not view nurses as role models with enough power to contradict negative stereotypes of African Americans and Black culture. Strategies to recruit African American students to nursing should include improving the visibility of the profession, delineating the role of registered nurses from those of other healthcare providers, highlighting advanced practice and leadership roles, and demonstrating the profession's power to affect change.