The Nursing Career Lattice Program
Dr. Avalon has overseen The Nursing Career Lattice Program (NCLP) at Children’s Hospital Boston since the Program started in 2009. The NCLP is an initiative designed to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of Children’s nursing staff. Through a generous grant, the NCLP was designed to “address the local shortage of nurses of color as well as to create a workforce that better reflects our patient population’s multi-ethnic and multi-racial makeup. The Lattice Program looks for potential nursing students among our current employees-including Clinical Assistants, Surgical Technicians, Administrative Assistants and Food Service staff.” The NCLP provides the services and support employees need to complete their education in various nursing schools throughout the Boston area.
Dr. Avalon states, “It is important to note that I am not a nurse by training. My training is in public health and workforce development in healthcare. I have always been interested in ways that we can increase diversity at the provider level (e.g. nursing) and how that impacts patient satisfaction and outcomes.”
Dr. Avalon suggests “workforce development programs are a win-win for both the employee and the hospital. In particular, given the significant impact that nurses have on the lives of our patients and their families, we are committed to continuously growing a nursing workforce that is able to successfully meet the needs of our changing patient population.”
“Our work focuses on looking within our own four walls and developing our employees to their fullest potential,” says Dr. Avalon. “One of my responsibilities, and truly one of the best aspects of my job, is the opportunity to sit down with an employee and discuss their aspirations and any challenges they face in pursuit of a career in nursing. For many, they were forced to put their dream of becoming a nurse on hold. Oftentimes, employees express that they are the first in their family to attempt college-level courses and they do not have support systems at home. As a result, they often do not know what questions to ask or where to begin and this can negatively impact their success in college. NCLP offers support to our employees that allows them to realize that they are not alone in this process.”
The program provides employees with one-on-one mentoring, professional development, academic counseling and the financial support needed to successfully complete nursing school. “My team helps employees to create a semester-by-semester plan that will enable them to pursue their dream of becoming a nurse – even if it is on a part-time basis.” Dr. Avalon continues “We also support our employees by providing them with an experienced nurse as a mentor and the opportunity to shadow a nurse in order to have a better understanding of the profession.”
NCLP is not just an academic resource; they help each employee with tutoring, selecting pre-nursing coursework as well as creating a plan to help balance the demands associated with school, transportation, family and work. NCLP enables Children’s Hospital Boston to create a strong multicultural workforce that provides the best family-centered care to their patients and community.
Five years ago Ms. Gomez came on board as a Staff Development Specialist to focus the work on Cultural Competence and Diversity. She states, “Among my many roles, I lead the Multi-Cultural Nurses’ Forum, the Student Career Opportunities Outreach Program and I provide Cultural Diversity Awareness training to staff throughout the hospital.”
I asked Ms. Gomez why Healthcare Institutions should have someone like her on their staff. She responded, “Cultural competence and diversity are two essential ingredients in delivering care for all patients and should be assets that are recognized, valued and embraced at every level of any hospital or healthcare institution. Awareness, advocacy and education are essential components of successful diversity and cultural competence initiatives. Having someone in this role can help hospitals remain on track by carrying out the activities that drive these initiatives. This effort will ultimately lead us into providing care for all of our patients in a culturally appropriate and meaningful way.”
She also states, “The work of diversity is ongoing and evolving. In 5-10 years, we will probably have grown and improved the diversity within the nursing profession. However, I expect we will continue to work so our efforts don’t become stagnant and we need to sustain the positive changes achieved thus far. The future is hopeful, but it will require time, dedication and work from all of us.”