A Guide for Minorities in Nursing

ASO Staff Writers
Updated July 12, 2023
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Breaking Barriers, Expanding Diversity, and Finding Success

Despite being a rapidly expanding field, the nursing profession is still working to increase diversity. Learn how minority nurses can overcome barriers and find out what’s being done to improve diversity in both nursing education and the workplace.

Cultural, racial, and ethnic demographics in the United States continue to change, with minorities projected to become the majority by 2043, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet the nursing industry is still trying to reflect the changing face of its increasingly diverse patient population. The following guide offers strategies for breaking down some of the most common barriers for minority nurses, reviews how diversity enhances the quality of patient care, and discusses the efforts being made to bring greater diversity to nursing education and the healthcare industry. If you’re a minority in the nursing field, learn how you can better serve your community and help improve the nursing profession overall.

Breaking Barriers as a Minority in Nursing

Across the nursing field, there are still biases that hinder minority nurses and students, both in the classroom and the hospital. Identifying these barriers—and establishing strategies to overcome them—is a critical step to helping nurses and nursing students succeed. Below are several strategies on how to overcome some of the biggest barriers that minority nurses may face both inside and outside the classroom.

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Surviving Nursing School

Being first generation Mexican American and a college attendee, my family struggled financially and was not very familiar with the different financial assistance programs that were available, such as filling out the FAFSA®, etc., so finding financial support was difficult.

Overcoming Obstacles in the Workplace

Being bilingual has been my greatest asset

A Closer Look at the Nursing Field

Race/Ethnicity by Enrollment at Nursing Programs, 2014

Black/African American10.00%14.70%15.60%
Hispanic or Latino9.20%6.50%5.20%
Asian/Native Hawaiian/Or Other Pacific Islander8.10%8.30%6.40%
American Indian/Alaskan Native0.50%0.60%1.20%
Two or More Races2.30%1.80%1.30%

Source: American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2014


Degree Attainment of Minorities, 2010-2014


Enhancing Diversity in Nursing

Although the RN workforce is more diverse than it was just ten years ago, the majority – 75 percent – is still white, which means the United States still has a ways to go before its healthcare workforce reflects its diverse population. Fortunately, efforts to increase diversity are underway within the healthcare system and via state, federal, and nonprofit programs.

These initiatives typically fall into a few major categories: organizational support, programmatic, funding, and marketing. Below is a list of the different types of diversity initiatives that have been implemented to help improve diversity within the nursing workforce.

Below is an overview of specific examples of programs and partnerships aimed at improving diversity in the nursing workplace

Increasing Diversity in College Nursing Programs

In an effort to attract more minority students, many nursing schools have developed a range of strategic initiatives to boost diversity in their programs. Examples of such efforts include the following:

Below is a more detailed look at ways nursing schools are working to reach minority nursing students.

  1. Improving the recruitment pipeline
    Nursing schools have started to develop strategic marketing campaigns to reach minority students. For example, the University of Delaware was recently awarded a federal grant to develop a comprehensive recruitment model for underrepresented minority students.
  2. Partnering with community colleges
    Nursing schools are also starting to establish partnerships with local community colleges, offering support to help two-year students transition to four-year BSN nursing programs.
  3. Connecting with the K-12 educational system
    Recruiting minority students starts early, even as early as middle and high school. Indiana University, for example, works with the local school system in Bloomington to bring high school students from economically disadvantaged areas into the university’s nursing school.
  4. Developing culture-specific programs
    In order to attract and retain students, some schools have created a variety of training programs for minority nurses. For example, Chamberlain College in Illinois launched Chamberlain Care, a coordinated workshop with the National American Arab Nurses Association; Kentucky’s Frontier Nursing University developed a distance education program specifically for African American and Hispanic nursing students.
  5. Providing specialized academic support
    Some minority students may need ESL support or additional developmental coursework to prepare them for the rigors of a four-year nursing program. In New York, Nassau Community College developed a grant-funded program, PREPS (Preparation Retention Education for Professional Success), that offers academic tutoring and assistance to minority nursing students.
  6. Updating curriculum
    Cultural competency is an important component of providing quality nursing care, and schools are starting to integrate cultural training into their curricula. For example, Ottawa University in Kansas offers a course in nursing and cultural diversity to teach students about the impact cultural diversity has on healthcare behaviors and beliefs, and how that translates to patient care.
  7. Creating diversity programs
    Many schools are pursuing projects to enhance nursing diversity in their programs, which subsequently leads to diversity in the workforce. For example, Oregon Health & Science University has created HealthE STEPS with a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The program allows the school to offer scholarships and stipends to minority students, increase academic and social support, and provide community outreach services to minority populations.
  8. Offering mentoring relationships
    Mentoring is a critical factor in attracting and retaining new minority students. In Ohio, Mount Carmel College of Nursing created Learning Trails, a mentoring program that offers one-on-one mentoring and regular consultation opportunities.
  9. Providing flexible scheduling
    Students from low-income or underserved populations may have to work, so many nursing schools have launched educational programs tailored to the need of working students, including distance education programs and night and weekend programs. For example, Maryland’s Mount St. Mary’s launched a night and weekend for ADN students, and San Francisco State University created a satellite nursing program at Cañada College, located near San Francisco in a Latino community.

Diversity Matters

According to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, the non-white population will be the majority by 2043, and will steadily increase thereafter, with minorities accounting for 57 percent of the country’s population by the year 2060. Those figures are significant because, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality, minority populations continue to experience disparities in the healthcare system, including access to quality healthcare, access to proper health education, and poor patient-provider communication.

Introducing more diversity to nursing, then, is becoming an increasingly vital tool to address disparities and, most importantly, improve patient care. Nurses interact with patients daily, so as the nation’s demographics change, the need to have patient care providers who are in tune with this increasingly diverse population is a pressing concern.

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Nursing Scholarships

An assortment of financial support, including scholarships, fellowships and grants, are available to prospective nursing students from minority backgrounds. Below is a small sample of what’s currently available.

AAPINA Scholarship Program

Sponsoring Organization: Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association

Amount: $1,000

Description: The AAPINA sponsors an annual $1,000 scholarship for members who are enrolled in either an undergraduate or graduate nursing program, have been members of the AAPINA for two years, and meet academic and leadership qualifications.

Alaska Native Health Consortium Scholarships

Sponsoring Organization: Alaska Native Health Consortium

Amount: $5,000

Description: The ANTHC offers 10 educational scholarships to Alaska Native and American Indian students who are enrolled in a formal training or educational program, are interested in working in a healthcare field, and are permanent Alaska residents.

American Indian Nurse Scholarship Program

Sponsoring Organization: National Society of the Colonial Dames of America

Amount: $1,500

Description: This annual scholarship program helps students of American Indian descent complete a nursing program and pursue careers in healthcare.

IHS Scholarship Program

Sponsoring Organization: Indian Health Service

Amount: Varies

Description: The IHS sponsors three scholarship programs (Preparatory, Pre-Graduate, and Health Professions) for qualified Alaska Native and American Indian students and healthcare professionals, in exchange for a two-year service commitment in an Indian health program.

Johnson & Johnson/AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars

Sponsoring Organization: American Association of Colleges of Nursing and Johnson & Johnson

Amount: $18,000

Description: The Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars program provides scholarships to fund the graduate education of minority nursing students who intend to become nursing faculty members after graduating from a full-time clinical master’s degree program or doctoral nursing program.

M. Elizabeth Carnegie African American Memorial Award

Sponsoring Organization: Nurses Educational Fund, Inc.

Amount: $2,000

Description: Established by Dr. Elizabeth Carnegie, this endowed scholarship provides $2,000 to African American nurses currently enrolled in doctoral nursing programs.

Minority Nurse Scholarship Program

Sponsoring Organization: MinorityNurse.org and National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations

Amount: $1,000 and $3,000 awards

Description: Multiple scholarships are available to nursing students from underrepresented populations who are pursuing a BSN or are enrolled in an accelerated BA-to-BSN program.

NAANA Scholarships for Nursing Study

Sponsoring Organization: National American Arab Nurses Association

Amount: $500-$1,000

Description: The NAANA sponsors an annual scholarship program for applicants of Arab heritage who are members of the NAANA and are enrolled in a nursing program at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s or RN-BSN level.

NBNA Nursing Scholarships

Sponsoring Organization: National Black Nurses Association

Amount: $1,000-$6,000

Description: The National Black Nurses Association offers a variety of scholarship programs, such as the Nursing Spectrum Scholarship and Ruth E. Miller Scholarship, to NBNA members who are enrolled in a nursing program (e.g. LPN, associate, bachelor’s) and have at least one year of school remaining.

Philippine Nurses Association of America Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization: Philippine Nurses Association of America

Amount: $1,000

Description: The PNAA offers an annual scholarship to members who are graduate nursing students pursuing a post-master’s or doctorate degree and who meet academic requirements.

Student Training Opportunities

In addition to scholarships, minority nursing students can also take advantage of specialized training programs. Below is a sample list of minority-focused training programs available from hospitals, government agencies, national associations, and universities.

Aurora Minority Nursing Student Scholars Program

The Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care offers a scholar program for ethnic minority nurses, which includes loan forgiveness payments, mentoring relationships in the nurse’s clinical area of practice, leadership development opportunities, and externship positions for students still in school. Applications are submitted through Aurora Health.

Founders Leadership Institute

The National Black Nurses Association offers a seminar through its Founders Leadership Institute that is open to any association member. The intensive, four-hour session is conducted at the annual NBNA conference, and features healthcare leaders from around the country.

IHS Extern Program

Indian Health Service externships are designed to provide nursing students with pre-professional clinical training opportunities in an Urban Indian clinic, IHS clinic or tribal clinical program. Externships last between 30 and 120 workdays during the non-academic year; participants either earn a salary or are provided with tuition payments and a stipend. Applications can be submitted on USAJobs.gov.

International Exchange Program for Minority Students

The Mount Sinai International Exchange Program for Minority Students, sponsored by the Mount Sinai (New York) School of Medicine, is a 12-week program that supports the work of nursing students and recent nursing graduates to perform mentored research in other countries. Interns receive paid travel, healthcare coverage, and a monthly stipend during the program. Applications are submitted directly to the Mount Sinai program.

Minority Fellowship Program

The American Nurses Association and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSHA) offer fellowship opportunities to foster the development of African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Pacific Islander and American Indian nurses. Open to students with a master’s degree in mental health or psychiatric nursing who are pursuing a doctoral degree, the program provides stipends, tuition payments, research workshops, and career guidance.

Minority Nurse Leadership Institute

The School of Nursing at Rutgers University in New Jersey sponsors a 10-month mentored leadership program for minority nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and at least two years of full-time professional experience. The program includes a mentoring component, research projects and end-of-program presentations. Prospective candidates submit an application packet that can be found on the program website.

Student Nurse Extern Summer Program

The Mayo Clinic in Arizona offers an unpaid externship program to nursing students to help them gain clinical experience working with diverse patient populations. Participants work three, 12-hour shifts each week during the eight-week summer program, and can gain clinical exposure to different areas of medicine, including intensive care, emergency medicine, medical-surgical care, and blood and marrow transplant. Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited nursing program and have a satisfactory academic record. Applications are submitted via the Mayo Clinic website.

The Hausman Nursing Fellowship for Minority Student Nurses

Massachusetts General Hospital sponsors a six-week paid fellowship for minority nursing students who are entering their final year of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program. Fellows are assigned a minority nurse preceptor and are able to work in an area of interest they select. Interested candidates can contact Massachusetts General Hospital for more information.

National Organizations and Associations

There are several professional minority nursing associations and organizations. From offering scholarships to public policy advocacy efforts, these groups are dedicated to supporting prospective and current nurses.

American Assembly for Men in Nursing

A national organization with local chapters, the American Assembly for Men in Nursing advocates for men to join the nursing profession and supports this effort through scholarships, an annual conference, a member newsletter, and a job board to connect members to employment opportunities.

Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc.

The Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc. is a global organization that serves Asian American and Pacific Islander nurses through a variety of means, including scholarships and fellowships, health policy advocacy, networking events, a newsletter, and a members-only forum.

Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Inc.

The Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Inc. is a membership-based organization for nurses who teach at institutions of higher education. It offers a platform for communication, assists members with professional development and continuing education activities, advocates on behalf of its members, and encourages networking and retention in the workplace.

Muslim Nurses Association

The Muslim Nurses Association is an organization for both medical and non-medical professionals who are interested in community health and supporting Muslim nurses in the workforce.

National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association

The National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association is a membership organization that supports the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native nurses. It works to reduce barriers to nursing education and create employment opportunities, advocates on behalf of AI/NA nurses, and recruits AI/NA individuals into nursing education programs.

National American Arab Nursing Association

The National American Arab Nursing Association is a professional, membership-based organization that advocates for quality healthcare for the American Arab community, works to educate the healthcare workforce about American Arab cultural practices, and provides scholarship opportunities and employment resources to its members.

National Association of Hispanic Nurses

Founded in 1974, the NAHN works to promote quality healthcare services in the Hispanic community and to increase the number of Hispanic students in nursing programs. With chapters throughout the U.S., NAHN offers a peer-reviewed publication and supports students with scholarship programs.

National Black Nurses Association

Founded in 1971, the National Black Nurses Association now has approximately 150,000 members across 91 chapters and is a central networking hub for African American nurses. It offers continuing education programs for nurses, provides scholarships, hosts a national conference, and advocates on behalf of African American nurses and allied health professionals.

National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations

A national nonprofit organization, the NCEMNA consists of the five major ethnic nursing associations. In addition to advocating on behalf of ethnic and minority nurses, the NCEMNA also hosts conferences, provides scholarships, and offers networking opportunities to nurses for each association.

Philippine Nurses Association of America

The Philippine Nurses Association of America is a membership organization that represents more than 10,000 Filipino American nurses through four regional chapters across the country; it offers a range of support services including educational programs, scholarships, networking events, and subscription to its journal.


American Nurses Association
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the country’s largest professional membership organization for registered nurses, with a comprehensive network of state nurse associations, chapters and affiliates. The ANA advocates on behalf of nurses, sponsors professional certifications, holds conferences and networking events, provides a career center, and publishes several members-only publications.

Discover Nursing
DiscoverNursing.com is part of Johnson & Johnson’s Campaign for Nursing’s Future. The site is an informational hub for aspiring nurses and current professionals, offering career advice, profiles of nursing specialties, and a scholarship and school database.

Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Nursing Program
The Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Nursing Program is an all-volunteer organization with a goal of reaching and mentoring underserved, minority populations who are pursuing a career in nurse anesthesia. The DNAP program offers a range of services, such as information sessions, luncheon programs and workshops, and sponsors student attendance at conferences.

Launched in 2007, DiversityNursing.com works to improve diversity in the student nurse and employee populations. Users can access a job board, post resumes, review nursing employer profiles, connect with other nurses through a forum and blog, and apply for scholarships and educational funding.

MinorityNurse.com is a career resource website that focuses on serving minority nurses and diversifying the healthcare workplace. Users can find jobs, sign up for job alerts, and access the site’s blog and magazine.

National Hispanic Health Foundation
The National Hispanic Health Foundation is a nonprofit organization created by the National Hispanic Medical Association in 1994. Among its many efforts is the goal of providing leadership and development opportunities for Hispanic health researchers to provide better care to Hispanic populations. The foundation offers a range of scholarships to health students, including the National Hispanic Health Professional Scholarship.

The Provider’s Guide to Quality & Culture
This website provides information about how to offer culturally competent patient care services to diverse populations. It offers advice on patient-provider interactions, includes insights into health disparities, and provides additional resources about individual cultural groups.

Sigma Theta Tau International
Sigma Theta Tau International is an invitation, membership-based nursing organization that currently has more than 135,000 active members in 85 countries. The organization provides a wealth of resources to members, including networking events, conferences, scholarships, and continuing education programs. During the past decade, STTI has been focused on promoting diversity both within its own organization and in the nursing profession, and has launched multiple initiatives to support that effort.

Think Cultural Health
Think Cultural Health is a project sponsored by the Office of Minority Health and offers resources to advocate for and promote cultural competency in healthcare. The site includes information about continuing education programs, as well as tools to help nurses provide quality care.

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