IBX scholarship aims to increase diversity in nursing schools

The Independence Blue Cross Foundation will pay the tuition of 35 Philly-area high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to attend nursing school. The Healthcare Scholars gathered Thursday at IBX’s offices in Center City for a reception.The program’s goal is to increase representation in the nursing profession, said Lorina Marshall-Blake, the president of the foundation. A more diverse nursing workforce could help narrow racial gaps in patient outcomes.“Research shows that outcomes are better when people get care from individuals they identify with,” Marshall-Blake said.Only 7% of registered nurses in the U.S. are Black, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, while 14% of the population identifies as Black. Men account for less than 10% of the RN workforce.» READ MORE: Philly health systems and IBC are launching an effort against race-based medicineThe 35 students will attend 12 nursing programs in the region, including Temple University, Widener University, and the Community College of Philadelphia. Each student will receive a full-ride scholarship — four years for those who are pursing a bachelor’s degree and two years for an associate’s degree.Students will also have access to tutoring and other academic resources through IBX.More than moneyWhen Andil Fatkonsi learned that he received the scholarship, he was so excited that he poured himself a glass of sparkling apple juice to celebrate. An immigrant from West African country of Benin, Fatkonsi wants to be the first in his family to join a medical profession. He graduated from Samuel Fels High School in 2022 and enrolled in the Community College of Philadelphia. This fall, he will start the school’s nursing program.The scholarship lifts the financial burden of his education. “It’s going to help a lot,” he said in an interview during the reception.Monica J. Harmon, president of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Black Nurses Association, gave the keynote address for the gathering. She shared her path from a “West Philly girl” to a public health nurse, professor, and leader in the field. There were times throughout her career that she didn’t get the respect she deserves because of her race, Harmon said. But she doesn’t regret becoming a nurse.» READ MORE: Lincoln University closes its nursing program, leaving a hole in the pipeline of Black nursesShe told the students that the field offers many career options and an opportunity to be leaders that advance the profession. But to achieve all that, she urged them to put aside feelings of impostor syndrome — the psychological sense of doubt in their own skills and ability — and believe in themselves.“I promise you, you are enough,” Harmon said.That message resonated with Raheim Grant, who recently graduated from the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School. The South Philly native, who is heading to Widener University, always had self-doubt. The email announcing the scholarship began to change that.“I’m proud of myself,” Grant said.

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