Journal of Nursing Education

Letters to the Editor 

A Commentary on Hispanic Students in Nursing Programs

Karen L. O'Brien


Click here to read the article. 


Click here to read the article. 

To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing the article by Alicea-Planas, “Hispanic Nursing Student’s Journey to Success: A Metasynthesis,” in the September 2009 issue (vol. 48, No. 9, pp. 504–513).

Alicea-Planas used the metaphor of a journey to explicate barriers and facilitators for Hispanic students in nursing programs, noting that the journey begins well before they reach the doors of the university. I work at a university on the south side of Chicago with an ethnically diverse student population, many of whom are first-generation college students with English as a second language.

I have witnessed many of the barriers Alicea-Planas discussed, which cause students to withdraw from or be unsuccessful in our program. Alicea-Planas provided many useful strategies for increasing retention and success. Something as simple as recognizing the importance of family obligations in students’ lives and opening up conversations about how to manage school, work, and family can have significant impact.

For example, a student I had in clinical was struggling in the theory portion of the course. I could see that she was stressed. I asked her one day how she was doing with school and how things were going at home. She told me she was having a difficult time managing all of her household responsibilities along with her school work. I asked if she had support from her husband. She opened up about how, in her culture, it was her responsibility as the wife to cook dinner, clean, and shop, which made it difficult to keep up with school work. I suggested she ask her husband if he would be willing to help out with cooking and laundry. She did, and she was surprised that he agreed. As a result, she had more time and less stress and ultimately succeeded in our program. To forge closer connections with Hispanic nursing students, Rivera-Goba and Campinha-Bacote (2008) advocated for faculty to listen to the rich stories students have about the challenges they face and the barriers they have overcome.

Alicea-Planas also emphasized the lack of role models within schools of nursing. The shortage of Hispanic nurse educators needs to be rectified. This disparity exists outside of nursing in all areas of academia (Smith, Turner, Osei-Kofi, & Richards, 2004). Multiple strategies will be necessary to successfully recruit and retain both Hispanic students and faculty. One such strategy is facilitating partnerships with experienced Hispanic nurses working in a variety of settings who might serve as preceptors for Hispanic students.

Identifying Hispanic students early in their nursing programs and encouraging them with support and mentorship to pursue graduate education is another strategy. Rivera-Goba and Nieto (2007) suggested starting even earlier in the education process by having schools of nursing partner with local elementary, middle, and high schools to provide learning opportunities for students, as well as opportunities for rolemodeling and mentoring. With the Hispanic population as the fastest growing minority group, it is necessary now more than ever to recruit and retain Hispanic nursing students and reflect the same diversity in the nursing faculty.

Karen L. O’Brien
Orland Park, Illinois


  • Rivera-Goba, M. & Campinha-Bacote, J. (2008). Making a connection: The use of storytelling as a strategy to enhance faculty’s success with Latina nursing students. Hispanic Health Care International, 6, 205–225. doi:10.1891/1540-4153.6.4.205 [CrossRef]
  • Rivera-Goba, M. & Nieto, S. (2007). Mentoring Latina nurses: A multicultural perspective. Journal of Latinos & Education, 6, 35–53. doi:10.1207/s1532771xjle0601_3 [CrossRef]
  • Smith, D., Turner, C., Osei-Kofi, N. & Richards, S. (2004). Interrupting the usual: Successful strategies for hiring diverse faculty. Journal of Higher Education, 75, 133. doi:10.1353/jhe.2004.0006 [CrossRef]


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