Rivier University’s Project Achieve supports nursing workforce diversity

Professor Judi O'Hara provides hands-on instruction to nursing students in Rivier University's state-of-the-art Simulation Lab.

Rivier University has welcomed ten first-year and seven sophomore nursing majors to Project Achieve, a program designed to increase diversity in the nursing workforce. Building on a pilot program funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, Project Achieve offers underrepresented student groups with opportunities to expand their understanding of nursing careers and to hone study strategies that lead to academic success.

“National data shows that underrepresented students benefit significantly through a pre-orientation to the academic environment,” says Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM, Rivier’s President. “In our own experience, this academic preparation, coupled with team building experiences and the support of faculty and student mentors, has led to remarkable retention success.”

Rivier’s pilot program results included an 83% retention rate for students participating in the program; 100% completion rates of day nursing students enrolled in final year of the RN-BS program throughout years 2014, 2015 and 2016; and a 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate of underrepresented students graduating in years 2015 and 2017.

The first-year student summer enrichment and sophomore bridge programs focused on the study of anatomy and physiology, nursing professionalism, cultural development, research skills and an orientation to clinical expectations. The programs were delivered by Rivier’s full-time faculty and academic staff in an environment that respected the individual learner and provided a professional perspective on the nursing profession.

In addition to academic programming, Project Achieve students took part in team building and collective problem-solving activities to strengthen their confidence, expand their social skills, and ease their transition into university life. A strong co-curricular program provided opportunities to build relationships and to introduce students to the many support organizations available to them on campus.

“Among the seventeen participating students, seven languages are spoken and five continents are represented,” says Dr. Paula Williams, Dean of the Division of Nursing and Health Professions. “The dedication they’ve shown to their studies and the nursing profession is a strong precursor to their academic and career success.”

Project Achieve activities and mentoring will continue throughout the academic year. The strong foundation established during the summer programs encourages and prepares students to fully engage in university life and to take on leadership roles in addition to their nursing studies.