Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) College of Nursing has been in existence for 100 years. This historically black college/university (HBCU) is preparing nurses for the future, and honoring the HBCU mission of offering higher education to African Americans. This educational effort to diversify nursing is also helping lower health disparities.

In honor of Black History Month, we look at HBCUs and their significance in our society today. Dr. Betty Adams has led the PVAMU College of Nursing for 19 years. Under her leadership, she has developed a multicultural and multi-ethnic student body and faculty with a welcoming atmosphere, resulting in a constant growth in enrollment across programs. During her tenure, enrollment and graduate numbers have tripled. Dr. Adams said HCBUs are important because they preserve traditions.

“Without HBCUs many African Americans along with other cultures would not be present today. In fact, these customs would be lost if this experience was not available to students,” said Dr. Adams.

According to the 2015 Gallup Poll, more African American students graduate from HBCUs than any other type of school. Financial flexibility, emotional support, and experiential learning opportunities have contributed to this outcome.

AARP is helping educators like Dr. Adams with resources to improve their nursing programs for their students. In 2007, AARP, AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) founded the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA). Their mission is to provide a diverse nursing workforce and easy access to a healthcare provider when needed.

Efforts for better healthcare didn’t stop there. The White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, and the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities, created a mentor training program for HCBUs to provide support for nursing students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“Different people need different things. As the dean, it is important for me to understand the cultures and struggles of our students. We give them encouragement and we’re very understanding. This is crucial for our students’ success,” said Dr. Adams.

Currently, Texas is facing a serious nursing shortage. To ease the nursing shortage in Texas, PVAMU established the “Licensed Vocational Nurses to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing” (LVN-BSN) Degree program in 2004. The College of Nursing at PVAMU is an academic component at the university. It’s designed to offer undergraduate and graduate nursing programs with the standards of the profession. Having diversity in nursing can help reduce health disparities while improving overall healthcare for all patients.

Sonsaree Thomas, a second-semester nursing student at PVAMU, said: “It really feels amazing knowing that PV really does produce productive people. It’s a guarantee that you have a job and connections attending this school. Just going to an interview and saying ‘I came from Prairie View A&M’ about seven times out of 10… you already have the job. They are just looking for you to make the right choices.’”

Students say the program brings them to this institution of higher learning, but it’s the school’s lineage that keeps them there.

“I chose PVAMU because I wanted to be around my history. I wanted to be around educators and black students. I want to obtain a black degree,” said Cyne Bendy a second-semester nursing student.

“The class sizes here are much smaller where we are able to get hands-on learning and communicate directly with our professors,” said Kylie Gonzalez a first-semester nursing student.

Through Dr. Adams’ leadership, PVAMU College of Nursing ranked among America’s Best Nursing Schools and Colleges in 2015 and in Its College of Nursing LVN-BSN Program ranked number two and the Family Nurse Practitioner Program ranked number four in Texas. Members of Dr. Adams’ staff are experts in student engagement and serving a diverse student body, resulting in a successful nursing program.

HBCUs make you feel like you belong here,” said Dr. Adams.

Added Ms. Thomas, “It’s important to have HBCUs in Texas because our history is so rich with every other color. Sometimes we leave out minorities. It helps a lot when you have professors that not only claim the history but, they have the education and degree to really make it true.”

Prairie View A&M College of Nursing plans to establish and expand their programs. They will eventually offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice and include a “leadership component.” Dr. Adam’s ingenuity has influenced and made a difference at PVAMU College of Nursing since 2000. She continues to strive to make it the best nursing school in the nation.

“Prairie View produces productive people, fair opportunity for growth and access to a quality education,” said Dr. Adams.