The Progresando Initiative empowers Hispanic/Latina/o/x adults to achieve economic and social mobility through high-impact careers.
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By Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17 October 26, 2022
Bank of America has selected UCF as a preferred partner for a two-year $250,000 grant to support Hispanic/Latina/o/x students pursuing careers in healthcare through its Progresando Initiative. The initiative was created to help Hispanic/Latina/o/x students achieve upward economic mobility through careers in healthcare, while also helping to increase representation and address the shortage of culturally proficient, Spanish-speaking health providers.
As the nursing shortage continues to impact the nation, one alarming statistic shows less than 6% of nurses are Hispanic/Latina/o/x, which is disproportionate to the growing community that is often critically underserved in healthcare, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing is the largest healthcare profession in the nation, with more than 3.8 million nurses.
Thanks to the investment from Bank of America and support from education consulting firm EAB, UCF has new tools to bolster recruitment efforts and support Hispanic/Latina/o/x student success in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. UCF was one of 12 Hispanic Serving Institutions selected to join the program. UCF was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in 2019, after surpassing 25% undergraduate Hispanic/Latina/o/x enrollment.
 
“The success of Progresando surpasses educational access and attainment by leaving a lasting impact within industry and the communities we serve.” — Andrea Guzmán, UCF’s vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“UCF’s partnership with Bank of America and EAB allows us to expand our efforts in advancing the success of our students while addressing the critical shortage of Hispanic/Latina/o/x healthcare professionals,” says Andrea Guzmán, UCF’s vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “The success of Progresando surpasses educational access and attainment by leaving a lasting impact within industry and the communities we serve.”
Progresando is part of Bank of America’s efforts to create opportunities for people and communities of color, including a $25 million jobs initiative that includes partnerships with 10 Hispanic Serving Institutions.
“Hispanic/Latino graduate students cite gaps in academic preparation and support, caregiving responsibilities, unanticipated financial pressures, and language barriers as major challenges to degree completion,” says Steven Alch, president, Bank of America Central Florida. “Through the Progresando Initiative with UCF we’re supporting Hispanic/Latino students beginning healthcare careers while strengthening the pipeline to support employer demand.”
EAB is providing strategic consulting, enrollment support and expert advisory services to six pairs of two-year and four-year Hispanic-serving institutions in states with large Hispanic/Latina/o/x communities and critical gaps in the healthcare workforce as part of the effort. Valencia College, a local partner with UCF, was also selected as part of the cohort.
“EAB is proud to partner with Bank of America to deliver better outcomes for Hispanic patients by working with HSIs to help more Hispanic students launch meaningful and rewarding healthcare careers,” says EAB Chief Partner Officer Sally Amoruso. “As an HSI committed to advancing social mobility across a diverse community, UCF was a natural fit to invite into the Progresando Initiative, and we are excited to be working with them to design a more empowering journey for their students.”
“Through the Progresando Initiative with UCF we’re supporting Hispanic/Latino students beginning healthcare careers while strengthening the pipeline to support employer demand.” — Steven Alch, president, Bank of America Central Florida
The latest U.S. Census Bureau data indicates 18.5% of U.S. population is Hispanic. However, representation of Hispanic/Latina/o/x people in healthcare is much smaller. Based on population growth and increasing needs for quality healthcare, Hispanic/Latina/o/x populations also continue to face disproportionate barriers to access, availability and affordability of healthcare. Commitments like Progresando are critical to increasing the representation of Hispanic/Latina/o/x healthcare professionals, enhancing the capacity to deliver healthcare services and driving greater economic mobility for Hispanic/Latina/o/x communities. With nearly 33% of individuals in the greater Orlando area identifying as Hispanic/Latina/o/x, the effort is especially impactful to the local region.
Part of the $250,000 investment will provide funding for an undergraduate research and writing lab, healthcare examination test prep and examination fees, and a healthcare professions education series to benefit more than 1,500 individuals. These are all areas that address several challenges that may prevent Hispanic/Latina/o/x students from graduating and pursuing a career in nursing and other healthcare professions.
“UCF’s College of Nursing is committed to ensuring a brighter and healthier future for all,” says UCF College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole. “This effort will not only provide more opportunity for Hispanic nurses to achieve their educational goals and advance their careers, but it will positively impact the health of underserved and underrepresented communities as these new Knight nurses practice as providers, leaders, educators and scientists.”
The Research and Writing Lab for HealthCare Programs will be modeled after traditional academic success labs with peer-to-peer assistance, six student-employees and six adjunct faculty, who will be available to assist more than 800 students in healthcare programs with thesis reading and critiquing, as well as mentoring.
More than 400 students are estimated to benefit from healthcare examination test preparation sessions and tutoring services. Standardized examinations are required for most healthcare profession programs for students to graduate and begin practice, the sessions and tutoring will allow students to be better prepared for the exam and increase success rates. Topic-based “Lunch and Learns” will be available in-person and virtually and virtual tutoring sessions will be recorded and made available to students as online sessions in the future. A $70,000 hardship fund will also cover up to $500 in testing fees for individuals with an identified financial need.
In addition to reaching current UCF students, the health professions educational series will spread awareness about medical professions to local middle and high school students through themed discussions led by professionals from diverse backgrounds. It will also provide opportunities for adult learners seeking to retool or upskill to participate in CareerSource Florida and UCF Continuing Education sponsored sessions.
UCF is also using funding awarded through the partnership to help increase awareness and enrollment in select, graduate-nursing programs where an increase in Hispanic/Latina/o/x representation may have the most impact. The programs are offered online, which provides working adults nationwide an opportunity to pursue a high-quality education at their convenience. These include:
Graduates from these programs not only help fill the need for more nurse leaders, but the need for nursing educators who have the credentials needed to train the next generation of healthcare providers — critical to addressing the national nursing shortage, which is estimated to be 200,000 to 450,000 nurses by 2025. Of the 7.2% of nursing faculty vacancies nationally, nearly 90% are due to positions requiring or preferring a doctoral degree, according to the most recent data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Focusing on these areas provide an exponential benefit.
“What sets our online graduate nursing programs apart is our faculty,” says Ayanna Lopez, director of Graduate Academic Advising at the College of Nursing. “Our faculty are experts in their field, sharing the latest in evidence-based practice, but they also truly care about our student’s success. Graduates often share that not only do they feel prepared to take the next step in their career, but they felt supported in their educational journey.”
“Our faculty are experts in their field, sharing the latest in evidence-based practice, but they also truly care about our student’s success.” — Ayanna Lopez, director of Graduate Academic Advising at the College of Nursing.
Studies have shown care provided by a diverse team of medical professionals lead to better outcomes for patients. Having healthcare providers from similar backgrounds as patients can increase comfort levels and lead to earlier diagnoses. With Spanish being the second most common language spoken in the U.S., increasing the number of culturally proficient and Spanish-speaking providers is essential. According to a recent Pew Research Center Study of Hispanic adults surveyed, 46% say they have a close friend or family member who needs a Spanish-speaking healthcare provider or translator. In the same survey, 44% of individuals say communication problems stemming from language or cultural differences is a major reason why Hispanics have generally worse health outcomes than other adults in the U.S.
UCF already graduates the most newly licensed registered nurses annually in the State University System, with approximately 260 Knight nurses entering the workforce each year. The Progresando Initiative contributes to UCF’s efforts to increase the number of diverse, highly qualified nursing graduates with advanced degrees to lead nursing into the future. Soon, UCF will be able to ramp up the number of nursing graduates it produces with a new 90,000-square-foot College of Nursing building at the 50-acre, state-of-the-art UCF Academic Health Sciences Campus in Lake Nona.
 
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