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Chamberlain University Launches Framework to Increase Diversity in Nursing

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   September 24, 2021

Social Determinants of Learning™ is designed to increase educational justice and health equity.

Chamberlain University, with the largest school of nursing in the country, has developed a research-based framework—the Social Determinants of Learning™—to advance nationwide efforts in creating a more diverse pipeline of students entering the nursing profession.

The framework connects with social determinants of health, the widely accepted model that outlines conditions influencing health status and which serves as a reference point for healthcare leaders to define patient-focused community health solutions.

Increasing diversity in nursing is considered essential to improving health equity, according to research that indicates benefits to communication, access to care, and patient satisfaction.

However, only 19.2% of the nursing workforce identifies with an ethnic or racial group, according to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey. An ideal would be for the racial and ethnic minority RN population to mirror the U.S. population, which is 23.7% minority, the paper says.

The Social Determinants of Learning framework, presented at the 2021 National League for Nursing Education Summit, identifies six core factors for schools of nursing to build a more diverse pipeline for school of nursing graduates:

  • Physical health
  • Psychosocial health
  • Economic stability
  • Physical environment/community
  • Social environment/community
  • Self-motivation

The framework, which is detailed in the recently-published paper Developing a Social Determinants of Learning Framework: A Case Study (Nursing Education Perspectives), includes examples of evidence-based initiatives addressing these factors, which can bridge social barriers to learning:

  • Student admissions: Holistic admissions processes evaluate factors beyond standardized test scores and GPA. Chamberlain has adopted practices using personalized and data-driven approaches to assess student potential and outcomes.
  • Student success: Personalized learning approaches, developed through the Chamberlain Care Student Success Model, encourage strong student outcomes. Pre-licensure BSN graduates experienced nearly a 13% increase in NCLEX pass rates from 2016 to 2020, and in 2020 the rates were above the national average, according to the team’s analysis
  • Mindfulness: An eight-week program integrated into Chamberlain’s pre-licensure BSN program was designed to support student psychological health as part of managing stressors that can be a barrier to student progress. More than 60 percent of participating students reported a reduction in stress levels.

"We are committed to engaging healthcare and education partners to join us in this nationwide effort to ensure that the nursing workforce of the future more clearly represents the communities and the patients we serve," Chamberlain president Karen Cox, PhD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, said in a press release.

"Educators play a critical role in identifying solutions that support more diverse student pathways that align with society’s healthcare needs," she said.

During the 2018 to 2019 academic year, Chamberlain had an enrollment of more than 9,600 prelicensure nursing students, 59% from racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The Social Determinants of Learning framework and research is aligned with the direction of the National Academy of Medicine’s Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report in advancing health equity by creating a foundation for increasing diversity in the nursing profession.

"To support appropriate, equitable patient care, nursing and health professions educators must embrace new approaches for increasing the number of ethnically diverse care providers today’s health care system needs," the paper says.

"As important as that is, there is an even more compelling reason to find new approaches for increasing diverse providers—it is the just thing to do."

“Educators play a critical role in identifying solutions that support more diverse student pathways that align with society’s healthcare needs.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Chamberlain University has developed the Social Determinants of Learning™ to create a more diverse nursing student pipeline.

Increasing diversity in nursing is considered essential to improving health equity.

Of Chamberlain's prelicensure nursing students, about 59% are from racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds.

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