With scholarships and mentoring, the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization and Swedish partner to address health inequities and increase diversity in nursing.
In the United States, Black and African American nurses currently account for 8% of the workforce. Many reports show that Black and African American individuals have greater incidences of diabetes, heart disease, and maternity deaths. These disparities often stem from socioeconomic inequities and racial biases in the medical field. The need for diversity in healthcare is critical.
When Swedish launched our Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OHEDI)
office in 2020, one of the central goals was to increase and nurture partnerships in the community that are dedicated to racial equity. One of those partnerships was with The Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization (MMPNO). The MMPNO, which was initiated in 1949, supports Black and African American community members who are pursuing a degree in nursing with scholarships and mentorship.
The MMPNO was founded by Anne Foy Baker, a registered nurse, who recognized the hardship Black and African Americans endured while working toward a medical degree. She recruited 12 other registered nurses to create an organization that would support Black and African American students pursuing education and careers in nursing. Baker named the organization after Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first Black woman in the United States to complete a nursing degree. Mahoney was a trailblazer and was inducted into the Nurses Hall of Fame in 1993.
Members of the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Association at a recent event.
The partnership with the MMPNO initially began with Swedish’s community health investment department in 2015. Through this partnership, the MMPNO and Swedish have been able to collaborate, providing on-site physicals for community members and educational resources at health fairs in marginalized communities. Jocelyn Thomas, a former MMPNO president, shares that the partnership over the years has had a positive impact in the community.
“Through community outreach, we have been able to effectively educate the communities that we serve together,” Thomas shared. "The partnership has allowed both Swedish and the MMPNO to become more aware of the needs in the community."
“These experiences provide us a platform to understand how to better provide health care to surrounding communities. Organizations such as [the MMPNO] are all volunteer based. Support from organizations such as Swedish strengthen our reach and ability to effectively provide the much-needed trusted care to our people," she says.
Dr. Keondra Ruston, President, MMPNO says that organizational partnerships in the community are important to addressing disparities in the community. She shares that she is excited to further the partnership with Swedish and to continue to strengthen the relationship in more significant and impactful ways to provide exceptional care and treatment to underserved communities. In addition to community outreach, Swedish also provides funding for MMPNO scholarship students.
“We are proud to support the MMPNO through our community health and needs pillar of work. Providing funding is just another way that we are supporting and promoting a much-needed diverse workforce in health care,” affirms Kelly Guy, Sr. Director, Providence Swedish, Community Health Investment programs.
Swedish’s OHEDI office hopes to expand the partnership, says David Grant, Sr. Program Manager Workforce Development, OHEDI.
“We are always thinking of ways that we can create programming that supports and promotes diversity and inclusion," Grant affirms. "Diversifying our workforce to resemble our patient population is [one of our most important] strategic goals.”