Nursing shortages are nationwide, and nowhere is this crisis more evident than among black nursing professionals.
“We’re probably 15 percent or less,” Jonanna “Dr. Jo” Bryant, president of the Black Nurses Rock Philadelphia chapter, told Black Health Matters recently. “It’s about exposure. If you don’t have an environment where people encourage you to say, ‘this is what I can do,’ you get steered to doing hair or other trade things versus developing a career. I met with a young lady recently who’d never met a black nurse who had a doctorate.”
Fortunately, this wasn’t Dr. Jo’s story, even though she grew up in central Pennsylvania, where there weren’t a lot of faces that looked like hers. “My mom’s a nurse. My aunt’s a nurse,” she said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”
And this is part of the reason Black Nurses Rock exists. The organization was founded in 2014 by Romeatrius Moss, who joined a different nursing organization and found it didn’t meet her needs or the needs of her nurse friends. The other organization wasn’t “really embracing the younger generation of nurses,” Dr. Jo said. “They weren’t moving toward the millennial age group, which is much more tech savvy, more into social media and being really innovative and thinking outside the box.”
The organization focuses on fostering a positive environment of professional growth and development, providing support and mentorship to nurses in an effort to elevate the profession and improve communities. In addition to holding an annual health symposium, BNR, which has grown into the largest minority nursing association in the United States with 48 chapters nationwide, has annual blood drives, stays abreast of the latest treatments, teaches younger members leadership skills and raises funds for scholarships.
The scholarship program helps new nursing students with tuition, and it also helps with continuing education for folks who have been in health care for a longer period of time.
BNR also gives nurses confidence to tackle new things. “I’ve been a nurse almost 30 years,” Dr. Jo said. “It’s the only thing I know in terms of employment. Being part of BNR has expanded my view of what I can do as a nurse. You get pigeonholed in thinking, ‘I only can work in this type of nursing.’ Being part of BNR, I’ve seen so many men and women do things outside of nursing. It’s a great exposure for that person who feels stuck. It’s a great inspiration to help people move to the next step in life, inside of their scope of practice, outside of their scope of practice.
“I’m grateful to BNR for helping me to see things differently than I had before.”