Learn How To Reach Hispanic Nursing Students

Debra DeVoe, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE, realized the U.S. Hispanic nurse workforce falls dramatically short of mirroring the Hispanic general population.

So she made the problem, challenges and possible solutions for encouraging more Hispanics to pursue nursing education the topic of her dissertation.

Nurse.com asked DeVoe, a team manager at Virtua Home Care in Mount Laurel, N.J., mentor at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, N.J., and adjunct faculty at Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Penn., to share what she learned and how schools of nursing and college recruiters might successfully attract Hispanic nursing students.

Nurse.com: Why did you think it was important to study the topic of nursing recruitment and retention?

DeVoe: I became interested in this topic when I was a nursing instructor at a pre-licensure school of nursing that was in an inner city — a city that had a population of 46% Hispanic residents. The nursing student Hispanic population at this school was less than 5%.

I also knew that Hispanics are projected to make up 35% of the U.S. population by 2050. The Hispanic RN population is 3% to 5% of the entire RN workforce.

I conducted a literature review and found evidence that patients have better outcomes if they are cared for by a healthcare provider from their own culture. Knowing your patient’s language is only one aspect that would help patients, but knowing their culture is even more important to help with patient outcomes.

Nurse.com: Is there anything about your methods you’d like to highlight for our readers?

Debra DeVoe, RN
Debra DeVoe, RN

DeVoe: I decided to study Hispanic nursing students and administrators from associate degree nursing programs, as most Hispanic students attend local community colleges. I used Survey Monkey for the quantitative data from seven nursing program administrators and I conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups with the Hispanic students. This produced my qualitative data — the most satisfying aspect of the entire research project. The 15 Hispanic students studied wanted to tell their stories of the many challenges, barriers and obstacles they had while in nursing school. The students ranged from 20 to 40 years old.

Nurse.com: What do you think stands out most about the differences between how nursing program administrators and Hispanic nursing students perceive obstacles, barriers and challenges for Hispanics?

DeVoe: The Hispanic nursing students and the nursing program administrators both agreed written and verbal language was the biggest barrier for the students, while family and home responsibilities was the next highest for the Hispanic students. Administrators felt that financial issues also were a concern.

I spoke to some nursing students who had Hispanic friends who quit the nursing program because of pressure from family members that their place was in the home, not at school. Many of the students had little confidence they would understand the material in their books or in the classroom, and some of the students felt the nursing instructors did not understand their needs or were not flexible in their ability to provide academic assistance that fit the students’ schedules. These feelings also prevented them from entering a nursing program, as they knew it would be a difficult major to pursue.

Nurse.com: You write the study identified the need for nursing program administrators to have more effective recruitment and retention strategies to attract Hispanic students. What pointed to this need?

DeVoe: Most of the Hispanic nursing students found a nursing program on their own, thus, there was not a lot of recruitment effort done by these two schools. The nursing administrators also stated they did not specifically seek Hispanic students, although one of the colleges was a Hispanic Serving Institution.

Nurse.com: What are some key challenges and barriers that affect these students’ recruitment and retention in nursing school?

DeVoe: The Hispanic students felt a lack of social and family support through their education even before they decided on a major or to attend college. The No. 1 support person for the students was their mother, which was close to 50%. Many of the students were first-generation students and did not have other family members or parents who attended college.

Nurse.com: What are some strategies that emerged from your work that might help our readers better recruit and retain Hispanic nursing students?


  1. The biggest strategy for retaining Hispanic nursing students is to talk to and listen them. Helpful strategies include having focus groups to ask students what they need and hiring more Hispanic faculty who understand the culture.
  2. Program administrators or their designees can meet with prospective Hispanic students on a one-on-one basis to show they are interested in these students and to inform them about available academic assistance. Many Hispanic students are timid, shy and lack confidence. They may just need that one person to help mentor them to success.
  3. Nursing programs can conduct open houses and activities that involve family members, to help build a bond with families. Encourage faculty members to allow students to tape record class lessons and to provide more hands-on application of the students’ studies.
  4. Some universities have set up local academic success centers in Hispanic communities. English language learning centers are also helpful to these students. Many colleges offer summer internship programs for prospective students to learn about the nursing profession.

Nurse.com: Are there limitations to generalizing these results to all associate degree programs? And what about applying these results to higher degree programs?

DeVoe: There are limitations of my research, since I only had associate degree students and administrators from two community colleges in a mid-Atlantic state. There are more Hispanic people in some southern and western areas of the country, where the research may have had different findings. However, the results of this research certainly could be used to assist other higher education institutions by encouraging more outside recruitment activities and providing more on-campus Hispanic support groups, academic success centers, etc.

Nurse.com: How are you using your research as a leader and educator?

DeVoe: As a leader, I am hoping to utilize my research findings to encourage more Hispanic people to enter the nursing profession by encouraging organizations to recruit Hispanic nurses and provide scholarships to Hispanic students. Healthcare organizations that have Hispanic employees can encourage them to enter a nursing program, educating them about the great opportunities for nurses and how nursing can be a flexible occupation with many financial benefits and personal satisfaction.

As an educator I have presented my research at two research conferences, and my dissertation has been viewed in 36 countries by 59 universities, government agencies and private industry. Therefore, I am hopefully helping others with recruitment and retention of Hispanic nursing students.

Nurse.com: What is your hope with this work?

DeVoe: I am hoping to use my research to encourage nursing program administrators to be more involved in recruiting these students by having representatives from their schools meet with Hispanic populations in communities; meet with high school guidance counselors; and speak at Hispanic community centers to entice prospective students to join the nursing profession.