Akron Children’s is aiming to enhance nurse diversity in its workplace through the launch of a new program this summer.
The program, called ASCEND (Assuring Success with a Commitment to Enhance Nurse Diversity), is a 10-week summer internship program for nursing students who are entering their senior year and are in good standing with one of the program’s partner nursing schools.
“We currently have 19 students participating in the program – 8 males, 12 first-generation college students and 3 first-generation Americans who represent Chinese, Native American, Filipino, Nepalese, Brazilian and African-American ethnicities,” said Nancy Mosca, director of nursing professional practice at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The idea behind the program is to potentially hire these students into the hospital’s nurse tech program should there be a fit at the end of their internships.
“The ASCEND program gives us the opportunity to get to know them and them the opportunity to get to know us and see if we are a good fit for each other,” said Mosca. “The nurse tech program was originally created due to a nursing shortage. We don’t have that problem anymore, but diversifying our nursing staff remains a priority for the hospital.”
Ursuline College student Theausia Holliday plans to apply for the nurse tech program at the end of her internship.
“What I love about working at Children’s is that I don’t get treated like a student, I get treated like a future nurse,” Holliday said. “Although I’m based in the NICU, my mentor, Ann Rochat, will send me to surgery or radiology if she knows there’s a chance for me to see something that would make for a good learning opportunity.”
Students are expected to work 3, 12-hours shifts and also participate in 4-hour professional development days every week.
“Students are assigned a mentor to work alongside during their shifts,” Mosca said. “This one-on-one mentoring provides clinical practice experiences on up to 2 different pediatric units.”
Hiram College student Dallas Cole chose to spend her entire 10-week internship in the ER. She has been paired with nurse mentor Stefanie Bodjanac.
“I like the fast pace of the emergency department,” Cole said. “I get to witness lots of different situations I haven’t seen before and learn the protocols for critical versus less critical situations.”
Professional enrichment experiences include hands-on nurse-related activities using case studies and simulation.
Students also complete their 8-hour PEARS (Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization) certification.
Topics covered during these sessions include professionalism, priority setting, communication skills, teamwork, delegation, family-centered care, nurse sensitive indicators, cultural competence, and interview skills and resume development.
“It can be difficult for young nurses to assert themselves and communicate with other professionals,” said Mosca. “This is something we help them practice.”
According to Mosca, the interns also complete a community service project.
This year’s project entails producing a public service announcement for Akron Public high school students highlighting the barriers of many inner city students to pursuing a career in nursing.
“We hope to target underrepresented students and show them how to overcome those barriers,” Mosca said.
Mosca gets help running the program from nursing educators Michelle Weber, Monica Andreski and Jessica Seich.
“They are doing a phenomenal job,” Mosca said. “The first year launching a program is always the hardest.”
Children’s currently partners with nursing schools affiliated with the University of Akron, Kent State University, Youngstown State University, Walsh University, Malone College and Hiram College.
“Each school is given a number of slots and they select their applicants,” Mosca said. “Students can choose to work on either the Akron or Mahoning Valley campus for their 3 shifts, but all students must come to Akron on Wednesdays for professional development.”
Each participant who completes the internship receives a $5,000 stipend.