Purpose. To describe the experience of African-American women in a predominantly White nursing school. To imagine and ideal school, and to have co-researchers feel empowered to make changes.
Background. More African-American baccalaureate nurses are needed to bring new perspectives to an overwhelmingly White profession, to identify problems and new solutions. Nursing schools reflecting a White, middle class culture may present barriers to the success of minority students.
Method. The Chinn emancipatory method guided this research. Nine co-researchers from three schools met weekly for eight weeks. Each meeting used group process, and codifications were discussed at the beginning of phases 1 and 2. The data was organized and analyzed weekly, and validated by the co-researchers at subsequent meetings.
Results. In Phase 1, although they discussed the support and hope for the future, the experience was overwhelmingly one of struggle. Struggles arose from discrimination, fears of retaliation, and layers of pressure not experienced by the majority students. In Phase 2, the ideal school of nursing was characterized by diversity, cultural compassion, peace/unity, justice/equity, holism, and higher standards. In Phase 3, they discussed ways of making immediate change, such as education on cultural compassion, workshops on teaching methods, mentoring, and a code of conduct.
Implications. Transcultralism, Holism, Emancipatory Knowing, and the Caring Model are all aspect of nursing practice that could be actively integrated into the classroom, beyond the stated ideals of the school. Individualizing learning, as nursing individualizes care, can also be useful to adapting teaching methods to the unique cultural and experiential context each student brings to a class. These tools will create an environment of empowerment and liberation for future nurses, as the process of this study did for the co-researchers. The potential change could improve the profession by eliminating horizontal violence, and creating a welcoming environment for more diversity in nursing. The outcomes of being a co-researcher and imagining an ideal nursing school validated the women, increased their self-esteem, feeling of empowerment, and they were more likely to advocate for patients and themselves. Ultimately, the women had hope for the future and felt emancipated by this research process.