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Support system

March 2011

by Rosanne Fohn

Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, is working to bring more undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds into the nursing profession. Her goals are to recruit students, particularly Hispanics, from underserved areas of South Texas and provide them with support to achieve their goals of entering nursing research, education and leadership. Dr. Rogers’ work is funded by a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Mentoring and support are the underlying keys to success for many students. For some, it’s that extra support that helps them succeed through the challenges of attending nursing school.

One student grateful for the School of Nursing’s support programs is Delia Silvas, a nontraditional student who decided to enter nursing later in life. She was inspired to become a nurse as a result of excellent care she received as a kidney transplant patient.

"The reason I wanted to go back to school was my personal experience," Silvas said. "I have been given so much that I wanted to give back."

The third-semester student is participating in a newly expanded mentoring program called "Diversifying Future Leaders in Nursing," led by Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, a professor in the Department of Family & Community Health Systems.

The program, funded by a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, is a major expansion of Dr. Rogers’ successful peer-mentoring program called Juntos Podemos (Together We Can). In that program, beginning nursing students were matched with undergraduate mentors to provide advice, support and study assistance. As the beginning students advanced, they continued to be mentored, but also supported protégés a semester behind them and received a small stipend to help with expenses.

After a 2009 survey of students and alumni from the Juntos Podemos program, Dr. Rogers learned that "The number one barrier to completing school — and this was consistently expressed by the students — was the need for a counselor or social worker they could easily access who could provide advice or resources." Students typically need help with such issues as navigating through higher education, learning about grants and scholarships, and juggling work, school and family obligations.

"Students also wanted to participate in projects involving leadership, research and teaching that would help them decide whether to pursue graduate school," Dr. Rogers said. "That is why I developed the new program."

She and her team launched the new program in fall 2010 designed to lead high school students into college, college students into nursing school and nursing students into graduate school. The ultimate goal is to provide more Hispanic nurses for South Texas, which has a critical shortage of health care providers.

"The most successful way to bring more nurses to South Texas is to recruit students from our university’s service area in hopes that they will graduate and return home to provide care," Dr. Rogers explained. "Because many of these students are the first in their families to attend college, they sometimes need extra encouragement and support to envision themselves first as students in higher education, and then as researchers, educators and leaders," Dr. Rogers said.

Working with The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), a longtime educational partner, the School of Nursing now has anoutreach program to interest high school students in the nursing profession. UTSA students interested in nursing will soon be able to take a pre-nursing course and can join a pre-nursing society that will serve as a support group as they complete their prerequisites and move into the UT Health Science Center’s nursing program for their junior and senior years.

At the Health Science Center, student nurses now can bring their concerns to the School of Nursing’s social worker. They are mentored by graduate-level nursing students and faculty members who can help them learn more about graduate education. And to further support this effort Dr. Rogers’ team is developing several lecture series for students interested in research, teaching and leadership.

"It has made a tremendous difference for me, especially being an older student," said nursing student Silvas. "I had been looking for support, because I was not sure I could handle nursing school with my health problems and financial issues," Silvas said. "Between my mentor, the staff and Dr. Rogers, I feel I am well guided. And now that I’m further along in the program, I’m able to help others, too."

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