Innovation in Nursing: Paving the Way for the Future
As a person committed to lifelong learning, I’ve always carried a passion for education, science, and making the world a better place. I guess it all started with my parents.
Sherri Wilson, DNP, MPA, RN
As a person committed to lifelong learning, I’ve always carried a passion for education, science, and making the world a better place. I guess it all started with my parents. Both had careers in the STEM fields, and both valued education as a tool for economic mobility.
Throughout my childhood, I learned how to navigate various academic and health care systems in some of our nation’s most underserved zip codes. I later provided much needed health care and education services in those very same communities after I became a registered nurse. However, I always knew I wanted to make a difference on a larger scale. In my role as a subject matter expert on the health science pathway at Stride, Inc.- a position through which I help advance the next generation of nurses and health care professionals—I have the chance to do just that.
Our work is more important than ever before. I’m sure you’ve read the articles and seen the headlines … the U.S. is experiencing a nursing shortage that is projected to increase as the population ages. The reasons are complex and heightened, and although the nursing shortage existed before the COVID-19 pandemic began, a recent analysis uncovered that the total supply of nurses dropped markedly by 100,000 between 2020 and 2021. In addition to the nursing shortage crisis, there is a critical need for delivering more culturally competent care as we work to eliminate health disparities and inequities in care. Although the RN population is growing in diversity, minority nurses are still an underrepresented group. Findings show that nurses from minority backgrounds represent only 19.4 percent of the RN workforce.
Amid these deeply complex challenges, America’s educational system must redesign its approach to nursing education and cultivate a more diverse workforce. That’s where I come in.
I believe that early exposure to career pathways is one of the best tools we have to build a stronger nursing workforce. That’s why I developed an online academic option that exposes middle and highschoolers to a wide variety of careers in the healthcare field. More specifically, I first piloted a new health science curriculum at one school. Then, I used the results from the pilot to re-design Stride’s entire health science curriculum. This option is now available to thousands of students across more than 40 schools.
It’s important to note that this option, which includes a pathway to earning an allied health certification, serves two major goals. First, it helps improve access to a growing field that can lead to economic mobility and stability. Secondly, it helps identify, engage, and nurture a diverse workforce that is urgently needed in healthcare today.
It’s important to note that Stride’s healthcare pathway is designed with scalability and international reach in mind as students are equipped with the foundational and durable skills they need to succeed in an increasingly global society and workplace. By pairing a solid general education foundation with work-based learning experiences, high school seniors can graduate with a diploma in one hand and an industry-recognized credential in the other. This combination uniquely positions students to join the workforce immediately and work toward careers in nursing, allied health, and other fields within the healthcare industry.
Many students also have the option to accelerate their academic journey through dual credit programs in which students earn college credits. Students interested in nursing can also participate in the Nursing Club, a national virtual career club which supports the student experience for enrollees in the healthcare pathway. The Club has enrolled more than 1,500 students ages 13 to 17 from more than 40 secondary schools across the country and Canada.
Here are three lessons I learned that may help others build a successful career pathway:
- Innovative Partnerships Are Key
A key component in building a successful career pathway is industry and post-secondary partnerships with both local and national organizations. Forging the right relationships and identifying opportunities like internships and apprenticeships can set up students for success well beyond their foundational academic years. Identifying synergies in mission and vision are a good start.
- Career Clubs Are a Necessity
The Nursing Club has served as a successful strategy in promoting career identity towards Nursing and other Health Science fields. The program illuminates a network of ethnically diverse nursing colleagues to serve as role models and guest speakers, enabling the students to identify with nurses of similar backgrounds or cultures.
- Gen Z Engagement Is a Must
Since the student is the ultimate customer, it’s important to engage them at every point in the process. We accomplish this through Tallo, the nation’s premier online platform that connects nearly 2 million students to academic and career-related opportunities. In a recent survey of Tallo members, 94% of respondents believed they needed an internship or apprenticeship to prepare them for their first job. This kind of valuable feedback from our students, helps to drive our offerings and types of partnerships we engage. You can learn more about Tallo data and insights here.