Graduate Nurses Aim to Diversify Nursing Ranks and Tackle Healthcare Disparities

Graduate Nursing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Association at RIC

This group’s commitment to diversity extends beyond RIC into the Rhode Island community.

In 2020 the Multicultural Student Nurse Organization at Rhode Island College was founded to bridge the gap between nursing students of color and nursing faculty and staff and ensure that students of color are equipped with equal opportunity and adequate resources. Ultimately, their goal is to increase the number of BIPOC nurses in the workforce.

In 2022 the Graduate Student Nursing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Association (GSNDEIA) was created not only to address workforce disparities but to address healthcare disparities within Rhode Island communities.  

RIC Professors of Nursing Joanne Costello and Donna Huntley-Newby serve as co-faculty advisors for GSNDEIA. Costello says significant disparities in healthcare and health outcomes nationally and in Rhode Island present an urgent call to action.

“One evidence-based strategy to improve population health outcomes is to increase diversity in the workforce – to create a nursing workforce that reflects the diversity of the population for whom we care,” Costello says. “RIC has benefited greatly from the richness of diversity of our graduate students with approximately 30 percent of our graduate nursing student enrollment representing students of color.”

GSNDEIA president Ana Dickenson ’23 M.S.N., director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Care Center at Women and Infants Hospital, is one of those students now pursuing her doctorate in nursing practice at RIC. 

The group recently collaborated with Community Care Alliance, an agency that provides support services for more than 14,000 Rhode Islanders in vulnerable populations, on a donation drive for socks, which is one of the top requested items for unhoused clients at Community Care Alliance’s Safe Haven program.

“This year, we want to build on what we have started and increase our charitable work,” Dickenson says. 

Founding GSNDEIA president Andrea Hernandez ’22 M.S.N. says she’s proud of the group’s work thus far. 

“My commitment to supporting diverse students and communities continues beyond RIC,” says Hernandez, a Colombian native who now works as an outpatient nurse case manager at Rhode Island Hospital. “I’m happy that our association is enhancing the graduate student experience and providing cultural awareness.”

Huntley-Newby says the association is “a safe space where issues related to academics and shared experiences can openly be discussed. The presence of these students within the community through leadership, advocacy and mentorship can encourage other potential students to consider the profession of nursing and advanced practice.”

GSNDEIA’s current membership consists of 15 graduate students hailing from Cape Verde to Colombia. Along with organizing several charitable events, they’ve shared nursing research projects related to the work the group promotes and provided space for social and professional networking.

The association meets every second Monday of the month in the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in downtown Providence. Meetings have included guest speakers, such as RIC Assistant Professor of Nursing Esperanza Gutierrez who presented on “The Immigrant Experience of Latina Mothers from a Strengths Perspective.”

Both Hernandez and Dickenson say they’re confident about the strength of GSNDEIA’s future.

“Within the next five years, I hope our association has grown in numbers and made a positive name for ourselves at RIC and through the surrounding community,” Dickenson says. “We also hope that our backgrounds, cultures and representation promote and show the importance of diversity, so we can remain steadfast in being role models for all RIC students.”