Certificate Program Encourages Engagement with and Service to Community

The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Nursing is giving its students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion through its Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare Certificate. Now in its second year, the program aims to increase participants’ cultural competency through engaging with and serving the community.

“I think it goes back to research that shows that when a healthcare provider has a lot in common with a patient, there are going to be better outcomes,” says Kenneth Sigler, assistant dean for student affairs, culture, and diversity in the OSU College of Nursing. “We want to add a sensitive workforce to that so that we’re meeting a lot of the needs of underserved populations, whether they are underrepresented minorities, low-income [populations], or [those] from a particular underserved area in Ohio.”

OSU College of Nursing Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare Certificate event badges (Courtesy of Troy Huffman, graphic designer in the OSU College of Nursing)
OSU College of Nursing Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare Certificate event badges (Courtesy of Troy Huffman, graphic designer in the OSU College of Nursing)

Developed by past College of Nursing Diversity Committee members Jen Robb and Josh Roush, the certificate program is meant to better prepare students, faculty, and staff to work with and provide improved care for diverse populations. However, its secondary purpose is to encourage OSU’s nursing community to take advantage of diversity and inclusion events and activities already taking place across campus.

In order to complete the certificate, participants must attend anywhere from six to 12 events, which don’t have to be healthcare-related, within the academic year. Sigler says qualifying events range from volunteer and community outreach experiences to diversity-related lectures, trainings, and performances, as well as online learning opportunities.

“We have a number of faculty forums that might have a guest speaker [who] talks about health equity among certain underserved populations,” Sigler says. “We have opportunities for our nurses to serve in free clinics around the city [and] opportunities for students and faculty to participate in study abroad. So I think we do a good job touching on a lot of different areas.”

Students, faculty, and staff who want to earn the certificate must attend events in two categories: Diversity Learning Opportunities and Outreach and Engagement Opportunities. With two levels of certification — Ally, which requires attendance at six events (at least two in each category), and Advocate, which requires 12 (at least four in each category) — participants are able to pursue the level that interests them and suits their schedule.

The Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare Certificate kicked off in fall 2014 — when participants were able to begin counting events toward the program — and culminated in a ceremony on April 1, 2015, at which the first cohort of participants was recognized. Sigler says between 60 and 70 students, faculty, and staff received Ally or Advocate badges at the event.

This academic year, Sigler hopes even more members of the university community will participate, especially now that the college opened the program to pre-nursing students.

For Sigler, the certificate’s uniqueness comes from the fact that it is not just for students, but also faculty and staff — which he believes benefits both OSU and the surrounding community.

“You see a number of programs geared toward students, [in which] they can earn things that distinguish them when they graduate, but this is something … for the whole college; this is for our whole community, and we want to recognize the work that our faculty and staff do as well,” he says.

In addition, the program provides an opportunity for people to learn about and engage with diverse groups outside of the classroom and beyond campus. Sigler hopes this aspect of the experience has an impact on students as they consider their career path.

“I hope that it ends up being a meaningful experience and one that helps set [students] apart when they’re in the job market,” he says. “But I also hope it opens their eyes to more underserved populations that they may not have known existed or that they had never engaged before and [causes them to think] … ‘maybe there’s something I can do to help contribute.’”