Arkansas Times
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Minority student nurses growing in number in Arkansas

Arkansas’s nursing population is more diverse than at any other time, a fact revealed by a stroll through the nursing schools of the state. In any given classroom, the once lily-white, English-speaking and exclusively female ranks have been enhanced by a growing number of men, people of color and bilingual individuals hailing from various points around the globe.


The result is a rich, multilayered nursing population that better reflects the changing demographics of the Natural State.

Dr. Sharon Stevenson DNP, APRN, PPCNP-BC said much of her success was predicated on institutions that were welcoming and committed to diversity.

“My faculty role as clinical assistant professor is in the UAMS College of Nursing and my clinical practice as a pediatric nurse practitioner is in neurology at Arkansas Children’s,” she said. “Both organizations promote and embrace diversity. I feel most welcomed and it is a welcome symbol when I see a growing number of diverse faculty, staff, clinicians and administrators that look like the population and people in the community we serve.”

Arkansas’s nursing schools have shown a willingness to develop adaptive programs that maintain the high standards for teaching while allowing for cultural and language differences. Anne Le Tran, who was born in Vietnam, earned her BSN from Eleanor Mann School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas this summer.

“At the BSN level, I have been equipped with the ability to advance in critical thinking, clinical management and evaluation of nursing interventions for evidence-based practices,” she said. “Though it was an online program, my nursing professors spent a lot of time to communicate with us throughout the program via email, text, blackboard and discussion. I had the full support and dedicated teaching from all the professors, which helped me complete the program successfully.”

“Many of my friends also have taken the BSN program from different schools and, in comparison, the University of Arkansas has the most rigid BSN program. With the quality of the program and the teaching, it is worth the effort.”

Stephanie Ingraham, nurse manager with Conway Regional Health System, said she was attracted to the nursing profession after seeing the caring treatment her father received in his battle with cancer. In the time since, she said she’s seen much more gender diversity as well as nurses of different race and ethnicity.

“We are absolutely seeing a growth in minorities in this field, especially with men,” she said. “Statistics show that one in 10 nurses are men, where in past times men in this position were nonexistent. In fact, the majority of the nurses on my unit are men and I absolutely love it.”

Jacob Baker, BSN, RN, simulation center manager with University of Central Arkansas School of Nursing, said he first became interested in nursing through volunteering in a hospital when he was younger.

“To this day, I remember the appreciation of patients for something as simple as giving them ice water. The satisfaction I experienced was something I enjoyed,” he said. “I chose UCA because of the exceptional pass rate on the NCLEX. The faculty were more than welcoming and went above and beyond in helping students succeed.”

Like Ingraham, Baker said he’s seen a dramatic increase in the number of men in nursing roles.

“When I began my career, I was one of five males employed on my unit,” he said. “Within the last two years, I have worked some shifts that were all male.”

Even with such success stories, much work remains to bring more minority students into the fold. This includes better preparing such students for the rigors of nursing school and increasing affordability. Stevenson said every minority nurse shoulders some responsibility to assist such students in achieving their dream.

“I am not a pioneer, because many others who may never be known or acknowledged forged the way before me,” she said. “There is no doubt that I have a responsibility to encourage and inspire others to keep moving forward. Paraphrasing from the book of Luke, ‘To whom much was given, much is required,’ and Maya Angelou, who said ‘When you learn, teach; when you get, give.’ Words to live by.”n


—By Dwain Hebda

Nursing Notes

“Keep your work life and personal life balanced. Get enough rest, play and make sure you have good vacations. I am lucky because I have relatives all around different places in the world that I can go on vacation. I try to have at least one long vacation each year when I get away totally and relax and enjoy myself.”

Helen McLennon, RN
Arkansas Children’s Hospital 
Years in Nursing: 41


Helen McLennon, RN
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