In July 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 15.9% of Kentuckians identified as non-white. It also reported that 52.3% identified as female.

Lori Donahoo, Owensboro Community & Technical College director of nursing, said those numbers are important to keep in mind, especially considering that as of Nov. 16, the Kentucky Board of Nursing reported that in Daviess County, 3% of nurses identify as non-white and 90% identify as female.

“So as you can see, we have a lot of work to do in diversifying our workforce,” Donahoo said.

That is one reason why OCTC educators within allied health fields have been trying to get out in the community to recruit students from different backgrounds. It is also the impetus for the school increasing its programming to promote diversity, equity and inclusion for the community at large, but in particular the health care community.

On Friday, Nov. 19, OCTC’s nursing program is providing a free professional development program specifically for healthcare providers. It will run from 1-4 p.m. in the Chandler Conference Center (room ATC 107) in the Advanced Technology Center on OCTC’s Main Campus, 4800 New Hartford Road.

The program, “Cultured Remedy: The Intercultural Development of Healthcare Providers,” will be led by Northern Kentucky University assistant professor Jitana B. Benton-Lee.

Benton-Lee holds a doctoral degree in nursing practice from NKU, a master of science in nursing degree from the University of Phoenix, a bachelor of science degree in nursing and a master of business administration degree, both from Sullivan University, and a bachelor of science degree from NKU. She is a nationally-certified nurse executive and nurse leader and manager.

Benton-Lee’s presentation will cover the cultural iceberg, equity-minded care and cultural development. She will also discuss social determinants of educational attainment, the illness and clinical encounter, and prescription remedy and follow-up.

This program is free, but those interested in attending should sign up in advance to ensure that enough space is provided. The program will also be offered virtually. For more information or to obtain a link to register, email Donahoo at lori.donahoo@kctcs.edu.

Donahoo said OCTC has always worked toward being diverse, equitable and inclusive, but educators there know there is a lot of work to be done in that area.

But just because it may be difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, she said, because research has shown that a more diverse workforce means better quality of care and better patient outcomes.

“The pandemic has really exacerbated the pervasive racial and ethnic issues in our country,” she said. “We want to do everything we can to combat this negative impact. We want to take action in our community.”

Part of that action involves working hard to recruit OCTC students of all ages and from varying backgrounds. It also involves OCTC ramping up its recruitment efforts and programming for younger students, to show what options are available in health care close to home.

To aid in those efforts, OCTC recently received a $18,500 grant from the Owensboro Health Community Health Investments Grant Program. Those funds will be used to increase the interest of students of color, or other underrepresented minority youth and adults, in pursuing allied health education and careers.

Donahoo said OCTC is working closely with its community partners, including Dugan Best Community Center, the H.L. Neblett Community Center, Cliff Hagan’s Boys and Girls Club, and Girls, Inc., to offer camps for individuals of all ages. Four hands-on community outreach activities and camps are planned for the spring of 2022 semester.

There will also be virtual information sessions offered to high school students and adults in the spring, followed by a three-day summer academy on June 21-23, 2022, for children in elementary and middle school.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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