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Navigating Relationships in the Nursing School as a Student of Color

Minorities in Nursing Organization and the Asian Pacific American Nursing Students Association team up to spearhead a collaborative event series for nursing students of color. 

Two Penn Nursing organizations, the Asian Pacific American Nursing Student Association (APANSA) and Minorities in Nursing Organization (MNO), have spearheaded a collaborative event series titled: “Navigating Relationships in the Nursing School as a Student of Color.” Based on data from the Office of Academic Affairs, the School of Nursing boasts around 28% of its total student population (including BSN, MSN, DNP, PhD, and post-MSN) identifying as students of color. Specifically, around 30% of BSN nursing students identify as students of color. Thus, this initiative focuses on dedicating a space to thoughtful, searching, and engaged dialogue about pertinent issues these students face at a higher education nursing institution.

The first focus group event in the series was held on Friday, November 17th and centered on promoting student-led discussion. Faculty were not present in an effort to maximize participation and sharing amongst students. 

During the event, students shared their concerns about struggling to find role models among nursing school faculty with whom they could culturally identify, tackling the oft-misunderstood concept of cultural humility, and feeling at a disadvantage in the classroom and during clinicals in comparison to some of their peers. Some students mentioned that they felt the need to go out of their way in order to have faculty acknowledge them. Other students commented that at times minority nursing students are made to feel that they face these issues alone, whether that is done consciously or unconsciously.

However, Nursing junior Jose Maciel said, “This series of discussions allows me to voice my thoughts in a respectful environment where people are attentive and willing to converse about these issues.” Nursing freshman and APANSA Freshman Liaison Jamie Chung reiterated this sentiment, saying, “Coming to an event like this made me realize how safe I felt in a space where students are offered a chance to voice their own experiences as minority students.” She added, “But I feel that the pride and importance of this discussion could be difficult to relay to students and faculty who are part of the majority. I look forward to talking with nursing faculty of color about how they tackle cultural identity and its importance in a professional nursing context.”

APANSA and MNO plan to continue the event series, focusing on integrating nursing faculty of color to speak about their experiences in the nursing field and bringing in university-wide cultural support houses such as the Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH), La Casa Latina, and Makuu. Nursing junior and APANSA Vice President Andre Angelia highlighted the importance of expanding the conversation, “Our generation is paving the diversification of nursing leadership, and it is imperative that to have discussions not only to strengthen the future of the nursing profession but also to improve the overall quality of care for our diverse patient population.”

Written by: Sarah Shin NU’18 and Heidi Chiu NU’20 

To keep updated with upcoming events or get involved in APANSA and MNO, check out: 

APANSA’s website:
MNO’s website: