Bartlett Awarded $1.2 Million to Build Diversity in Nursing and among Nurse Scientists and Faculty in Alabama

Robin Bartlett: Professor, Lifespan Researcher

Dr. Robin Bartlett, Associate Dean for Research at the Capstone College of Nursing, and her team have received notice of a $1.2 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health for their project, Health Sciences & Technology Academy-Alabama (HSTA-AL). The goal of HSTA-AL is to build a pipeline for underrepresented students to the field of nursing, teaching them to become change agents in their communities.

“Our nation is in dire need for more nurses, particularly nurse scientists, nurse faculty, and RNs from rural areas and diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds,” said Dr. Bartlett. “To change this dynamic, we must encourage students from underrepresented populations to enter the field of nursing before they graduate from high school.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nearly 40% of the U.S. population are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, but these groups comprise only about 20% of the nursing workforce and 16% of full-time nursing faculty.

Dr. Bartlett continued, “Nurses from underrepresented and diverse communities have the potential to become change agents in their communities, employing their understanding and expertise to address health inequities that lead to poorer health outcomes among underserved populations.”

This five-year program seeks to replicate West Virginia’s SEPA-supported Health Sciences & Technology Academy (WV HSTA), but with adaptations specific to the needs of rural Alabama (the program will initially focus its efforts in Hale and Pickens Counties). HSTA-AL aims to support inclusion in nursing, nurse faculty and nursing science roles by opening the doors to higher education for underrepresented high school students.

The SEPA funded WV HSTA has been in existence for more than 25 years and has graduated nearly 3000 students from the program, with an 89% graduation rate among those who matriculate to college. WV HSTA graduates often go on to pursue advanced degrees, and many choose nursing as a profession.

“We will build on WV HSTA’s successes, tailoring HSTA-AL to meet the unique needs of Alabama high school students,” said Dr. Bartlett. “We look forward to opening these students up to the possibilities of a biomedical career, especially a career in nursing.”

“The Hale County School System has a passion for providing opportunities for all students, not only in their education endeavors but also in life. This program will do both,” said Mr. Michael Ryans, Superintendent of Hale County Schools. “I believe that long-term, sustainable change will be accomplished through this program. Together, we can improve the health of Hale County residents while educating and preparing our youth to become the health care professionals of tomorrow.”

Steps taken to encourage students to pursue undergraduate degrees will include (but not be limited to): hosting summer camps on nursing, citizen science and rural health disparities; offering after-school clubs to engage students in community-based participatory research; and providing professional development to HSTA-AL in-service and pre-service teachers.

UA’s Capstone College of Nursing HSTA-AL team includes: Dr. Bartlett, Drs. Mercy Mumba, Paige Johnson and Michele Montgomery, and Mrs. Brandi Lester. Dr. Betty Key from Samford University is also a member of the team, as are Ms. Bethany Hornbeck and Dr. Ann Chester from Apis Creative and Drs. Alan and Sherron McKendall from West Virginia University.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under SEPA Award Number R25GM142027. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

What is HSTA-AL?