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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Experiences of Underrepresented Minorities in Doctoral Nursing Programs at Predominantly White Universities

  • Author(s): Gregory, Linda Darlene
  • Advisor(s): Waters, Catherine M
  • et al.


The representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the nursing workforce is disproportionately low in comparison with their representation in the general population in the United States. Despite diversity initiatives, the slight increase in enrollment of under-represented minority (URM) students in graduate schools of nursing at predominantly White universities (PWU) has not resulted in a significantly more diverse nursing workforce. The purpose of the study was threefold: (a) to describe the pre-admission personal backgrounds and pre-entry decision-making processes of URM students in doctoral nursing programs at PWUs, (b) to describe the processes of academic socialization and progression experienced by URM students in doctoral nursing programs at PWUs, and (c) to describe the availability of and access to institutional resources from the perspectives of URM students in doctoral nursing programs at PWUs. It is hoped that the findings of this study may in turn help to elucidate the facilitators and barriers that contribute to admission, retention, attrition, and graduation of URM students in order to design better, targeted diversity initiatives in nursing education. In the long-term, the education of a more diverse pool of nurses may lead to a more diverse nursing workforce, which will benefit an ever-increasing diverse society in which health disparities, inequities, and inequalities still exist.

The study design was constructivist grounded theory. Participants were recruited using social media, flyers, and snowball sampling. Recruitment yielded 20 participants, who self- identified as an URM, spoke English, and attended a public or private PWU with a PhD in nursing program. Semi-structured interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. Iterative, simultaneous data collection and analysis used the ATLAS ti data management software program. Findings indicate that multiple factors, positive and negative, influenced URM PhD nursing students’ experiences at PWUs. Four overarching themes emerged: preadmission history and preparedness, becoming a scholar, support and resources and the journey toward graduation and beyond. Subcategories included multiple support systems; racial, ethnic and cultural influences; decision-making processes; and academic environment and resources. Addressing these multifactorial factors may broaden academic nursing’s understanding of how to foster successful degree attainment with a significantly diverse professoriate and clinical workforce.

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