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New partnership between UB, BPS aims to tackle diversity, burnout issues in WNY nursing labor force

Posted at 6:42 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 08:35:04-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A new summer program for high school students in Buffalo Public Schools is aiming to address two major issues in the nursing field in Western New York.

The program, announced last week, is giving BPS students a chance to get an immersive experience in nursing through a partnership with the University at Buffalo's School of Nursing.

One of the key drivers behind the program is a lack of diversity in Western New York's nursing workforce.

According to 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 30% of registered nurses in WNY are people of color. Amy Hequembourg, the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion in UB's School of Nursing, says the nursing program will help provide a stronger pipeline from the classroom to the workforce.

"The last few years we developed a relationship with a group of community-based practicing black nurses who strongly encouraged us, you know you've gotta build this pipeline, you've gotta get high school students excited and prepared to go to school and become nurses," said Hequembourg.

But low diversity is only half of the problem.

Over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the people on the frontlines — especially nurses — have experienced burnout because of staffing shortages and overtime.

"Now I think we're seeing a little bit of the consequences — the burnout, the tiredness the fatigue that everyone's experiencing — but nurses in particular," said Hequembourg.

The UB School of Nursing says it saw a surge in students early on in the pandemic and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the nursing field are expected to grow by 9% in the next 10 years. It's growth that Hequembourg says presents the perfect chance to get more young students interested in becoming nurses before they even get to college.

"And this is our opportunity to bring them in and talk to them about what really is it all about and the profession of nursing, there's so many things you can do," she said. "Like how many people know you can get a Ph.D. in nursing?"

Applications for the summer program with UB are open to BPS students through May 1. Only 30 students will be accepted into the program; those who are picked will be notified on June 1.

You can find more information on the application process here.