At Alameda Health System (AHS) improving health equity is central to our vision for optimizing the health of our diverse and vulnerable community. One of the ways AHS is working to close the health disparities gap is through working with the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions (USF SONHP) to launch the first Nurse Health Equity Scholars (NHES) program.
“It’s more important than ever for AHS to invest in our next generation of nurses and this partnership positions us well to continue building critical pipelines for serving our diverse patients,” said Ro Lofton, chief nursing officer and chief administrative officer for the Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus (WCHHC). “We are excited to provide an exceptional clinical learning environment for nursing students who are passionate about providing equitable and culturally sensitive care.”
The NHES program, which was founded by Dr. Fry-Bowers, dean of the USF SONHP, is a unique and evidence-based approach to providing longitudinal clinical learning experiences in the public health sector – the first of its kind in California.
This month, thirteen pre-selected USF SONHP sophomores began clinical rotations in several areas including Telemetry, Medical-Surgical and Step-Down units at WCHHC. In addition, each student has the benefit of clinical instructors to help facilitate and guide their progress throughout the program.
“I was attracted to the NHES program because it will help me begin a career focused on health care accessibility for all groups in need,” shared Ogechukwu Okoye. “I hope to learn about the staff dynamics that keep a safety-net hospital functioning and to expand my worldview by caring for diverse patients.”
Many factors contribute to health disparities for diverse patient populations including access to healthy foods, safe housing, language barriers and environmental conditions. These social determinants of health result in higher rates of illness and health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma and heart disease.
NHES is designed for the next generation of nurses to be part of the solution toward achieving a more just and equitable health care system. Students will receive hands-on clinical experiences at WCHHC to accompany their classwork.
Elaine Truong, a Bay Area native and HNES scholar has a personal passion for reducing language barriers for patients and a strong connection with AHS. “Both of my grandparents receive their health care at Highland Hospital, so this community is very close to home and personal for me,” said Truong. “Just as AHS has supported my family despite not speaking English, I would love the opportunity to support AHS efforts to serve the community.”
Truong shared that she hopes to learn about the culture and history of the patients she works with and be able to communicate with them about their care in Spanish or Mandarin. Upon graduation from USF SONPH, Okoye, Truong and their cohort will be eligible to apply for nursing positions at AHS.
“The next generation of nurses who understand the challenges faced by our patients from different cultures, races, ethnicities and socio-economic classes will improve health outcomes and help our communities thrive,” said Lofton.