Charles R. Drew University President David Carlisle speaks with nursing students on the Los Angeles campus. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon. (source: chcf.org)

Last Updated on May 30, 2022 by BVN

S. E. Williams |

“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we predicted a nursing shortage due to the retiring nursing workforce and the care needs of our aging population,” said Kathy Sanford, D.B.A., R.N., Chief Nursing Officer at CommonSpirit. 

“Nursing schools simply don’t have the capacity to train nurses fast enough to replace those leaving the profession. As one of the nation’s largest employers of nurses, we knew we needed to be part of the solution.”

In 2020, a report published by the California State Auditor noted the Board of Registered Nursing had failed to use sufficient information when considering enrollment decisions for new and existing nursing programs. 

The 2018 regional forecast of the Registered Nurse Workforce in California concluded that all regions except the Central Coast appeared to have had nursing shortages in 2018  and that by 2035 the Central Valley, Central Coast, and San Francisco Bay Area will experience or continue to experience nursing shortages. The above Figure shows the counties that are included in each of the eight regions defined in the 2018 regional forecast and indicates whether the regional forecast projects a shortage, a surplus, or balanced supply and demand for each region in 2035. (source: auditor.ca.gov)

The California State Audit Report was followed in 2021 by an American Association of Colleges of Nursing study which found, although interest in nursing programs is strong, 80,521 qualified applications were not accepted at schools of nursing due primarily to a shortage of clinical sites, faculty, and resource constraints. 

A way forward— expanding access to education in the field of nursing

One of the nation’s four historically Black medical schools, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), and CommonSpirit Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems and parent company of Dignity Health California Hospital, are responding to the national nursing shortage through a new partnership that will grow and diversify the nursing workforce. 

The new partnership will expand access to quality education and training by adding faculty and resources that help CDU, one of the nation’s leading educators of Black and other underrepresented minority nurses, grow its enrollment. 

“Expanding our program helps increase their impact and the likelihood that diverse patients have access to a provider who looks like them,” said David M. Carlisle, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer at CDU. (source: chcf.org)

“In addition to clinical excellence, our students are focused on social justice and health equity for underserved populations in our surrounding communities in South Los Angeles and around the world who are affected by health disparities,” said David M. Carlisle, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer at CDU. “Expanding our program helps increase their impact and the likelihood that diverse patients have access to a provider who looks like them.”

Doctors and nurses in America are overwhelmingly white, so many patients may be unable to select a physician of the same race or ethnicity but when people have a choice, they are likely to choose a doctor of the same race or ethnicity.

Studies show that having access to a healthcare professional with shared lived experience helps improve trust and outcomes, yet only 22.2% of Black adults reported being of the same race as their health care provider compared to 73.8% of white adults.

“Professors who look like us.”

The same theory holds true in many cases as it relates to students pursuing medical careers. Charity M’samalia Chimwala-Selico is a student and professor at the historically black college Charles R. Drew University. From her perspective, not only is it easier for patients to trust a provider that shares a cultural understanding, “Professors who look like us and have experienced a similar background in nursing and bringing us into these spaces is important because it creates community.”

“Together with Charles R. Drew, we’re helping to remove systemic barriers and create a more diverse and dynamic workforce that reflects the communities we serve,” advised Julie J. Sprengel, President and CEO of CommonSpirit’s Southern California Division. (source: modernhealthcare.com)

“In our Southern California Division alone, we employ 10,000 nurses that care for over a million people every year,” said Julie J. Sprengel, President and CEO of CommonSpirit’s Southern California Division. “Together with Charles R. Drew, we’re helping to remove systemic barriers and create a more diverse and dynamic workforce that reflects the communities we serve.”

In addition to expanding capacity at CDU, the partnership seeks to drive early interest in nursing careers among students from under-resourced or underrepresented groups.  CommonSpirit and CDU will establish mentorship programs for diverse high school students and build relationships with pre-college educators and guidance counselors to help ensure that students know their options and the prerequisite coursework necessary for a career in nursing.

“As one of the nation’s leading providers of Medicaid services, this partnership is an extension of CommonSpirit’s larger commitment to increasing culturally competent health care providers,” said Sprengel.

More about the partners in this program

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, located in South Los Angeles, offers nearly 20 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs in medicine and healthcare. It  is recognized by the State of California as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and is a federally designated Historically Black Graduate Institution (HBGI). 

CDU is the #2 school in America for student and faculty diversity and the only Historically Black University west of Texas, CDU The university has been repeatedly cited as a top school in the nation for its graduates’ early career salaries and for providing high-income careers for previously low-income students. Visit https://www.cdrewu.edu for more information about Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.  

California’s only  HBCU, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, located in South Los Angeles, offers nearly 20 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs in medicine and healthcareS. (source: cdrewu.edu)

CommonSpirit Dignity Health owns several hospitals and medical centers across Southern California including the St Bernardine Medical Center and Community Hospital in San Bernardino,  Northridge Hospital, Glendale Memorial Hospital; St John’s Medical Center in Oxnard and Camarillo, and the California Hospital  Medical Center and St Mary Medical Center  in Long Beach.

The nonprofit CommonSpirit Health is dedicated to advancing health for all people and is working to expand access to careers in health care through its academic partnerships with other colleges and universities including Baylor College of Medicine, Creighton University, and the Morehouse School of Medicine.  

Together with the Morehouse School of Medicine, CommonSpirit has launched the More in Common Alliance, a 10-year, $100 million initiative to help address the lack of representation among health care providers and established scholarships to help remove barriers to pursuing a career in health care, including a program at Creighton University that will provide 100 full-tuition scholarships to underrepresented students of color and $3 million awarded to diverse health care professionals through the CommonSpirit Equity Impact Scholarship.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Stephanie has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.