In June, when the annual GlobalMindED Conference was held in Denver, CO, 11 students and five faculty from the UArizona College of Nursing’s HRSA-funded Arizona Nursing Career Apex Transitions (ANCAT) program were there to share their success building a pathway toward a more diversified nursing workforce.
Geared toward improving access to education, employment, and economic mobility for first generation college students, poverty-affected, and minoritized students hardest hit by COVID, GlobalMindED was the perfect forum for UArizona Nursing to share its success story.
“It was a transformative experience, both for the faculty involved and for the students,” says Assistant Clinical Professor Timian Godfrey, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, one of the faculty members who accompanied the students. “The GlobalMindED Conference is unique because it looks at health equity through a broader lens that includes the commercial space, K-12, as well as policy.”
“It was a transformative experience, both for the faculty involved and for the students. The GlobalMindED Conference is unique because it looks at health equity through a broader lens that includes the commercial space, K-12, as well as policy," ~ Timian Godfrey, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Diversity is a core value of UArizona Nursing, exemplified by the ANCAT program, which supports students with backgrounds that include American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian, Hispanic/Latino, first-generation college and/or graduate students, and students raised in a rural area and/or along the Mexican-American border. Additionally, the College’s Indians in Nursing: Career Advancement and Transition Scholars (INCATS) program is a five-year project aimed at increasing the number of BSN and advanced practice Native American nurses who will practice in tribal facilities. It creates new pathways for Associate Degree nurses to advance their careers and build new tribal-academic-practice collaborations that expand the Native American nursing workforce prepared to improve care of Native populations.
UArizona Nursing’s participation in the GlobalMindED Conference was part of this year’s summer intensive, a six-week program geared toward helping students develop an academic identity as well as strengthen their professional identity.
Dr. Godfrey and her colleagues were thrilled to provide the students with their very first academic conference. “I did not have the opportunity to attend my first academic conference until I was a doctoral student,” she says. “It was in that arena that I got to network and meet people from other areas and other backgrounds, which broadened my perspective of what I could do and the impact it could have. To be able to provide the chance for pre-licensure and undergrad students to participate in an academic conference was a unique opportunity to help them envision themselves and what their potential could be, and hopefully cultivate and strengthen those identities.”
Students from the ANCAT program participate year-round in professional development and support activities, which makes them eligible to attend Summer Intensive. At GlobalMindED, they were able to disseminate their experiences to a wider audience, sharing interventions and strategies championed by UArizona Nursing such as holistic admissions, holistic retention, proactive mentoring, and cohort building. “We’ve found these strategies effective in our college and any time we present at national conferences there’s a lot of interest that arises from that,” Dr. Godfrey says. “It’s motivation for us to continue to improve and build upon what we’ve already done. What we see is that we are forerunners in nursing education when it comes to supporting and cultivating a more diverse workforce.”
Dr. Godfrey and her colleagues see it as vital that the College shares its experience. “UArizona Nursing is one institution out of hundreds of schools,” she says. “If we really want to make an impact on the representation of the diversity of our nursing workforce then we must disseminate, we have to publish, and we have to present. But what was also great about this presentation is that we involved students in it. We were able to share what we’re doing and hopefully collaborate and learn to improve our efforts but also give students an opportunity to engage and be a part of that process.”
Angela Acuna, a Tucson Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) student, served as a panelist on UArizona Nursing’s presentation. A member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, Acuna was introduced to the ANCAT and INCATS programming in her first semester. She feels that the program – which she likens to a close-knit family -- has allowed her to network with her peers and has introduced her to a variety of opportunities to provide care for underserved populations. Her number one goal is to work in her community post-graduation. “At GlobalMindED, I was part of a panel with UArizona faculty that looked at the minority aspects in the health care setting for being a health care professional,” she says. “As a student nurse, I was able to share my story of resiliency, as well as the challenges and struggles I’ve been through, and what I’ve learned from it.”
For Acuna, participating in the conference was also a transformative experience. “To me, it was taking a step forward in the right direction in seeing the positive things we as minorities can do,” she says, noting that she hoped to guide younger generations of Native American nursing students away from the kinds of problems she encountered during her nursing journey. “I don’t want them to struggle like I did. I want to see where a curriculum could be tailored to address more of the minority experience.”
ANCAT scholar Kayla Cooper, a first-generation college student from Phoenix, was also wowed by her time at the GlobalMindED conference. “It was inspiring how like-minded and how progressive all of the individuals were who were sitting at the table,” she says. “It was really cool to sit in a room with such a diverse audience.”
Cooper learned about issues of health equity surrounding mental health care and gained a new perspective about her path in the nursing field. She found it eye-opening to learn more about the kinds of patients she would be working with post-graduation and was inspired for the future. “Being able take all this information away, confident about my ability to apply it in a clinical setting, is the most invaluable thing I’m going to take away from college. The conference really supported that and was able to help me see a lot of new things I hadn’t been able to see before, especially in Arizona.”
Aware of the valuable developmental experiences academic conferences give to students like Acuna and Cooper, Dr. Godfrey hopes to continue offering such opportunities in the future. When the Western Institute of Nursing (WIN) holds its annual conference in Tucson next year, she plans to bring a new crop of undergrads. For her, it’s all about getting the word out about what health care, as a system, can do to help decrease barriers, to increase support systems, and to make the links between the University, the community, and public policy stronger.
“Working in nursing education and knowing that we have a profession and workforce in crisis exacerbated by COVID-19, it’s easy to get discouraged,” she says. “But seeing the light in these students’ eyes and watching their thought processes shift toward a bigger purpose, is motivating. It’s inspiring for me to continue to do what I can to help with various issues plaguing our nation’s health care system.”
The ANCAT project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $2,219,204 with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov