Scholarship to help increase Native American nurse force

By Alli Benjamin, College of Nursing

Leslie-Randall-webSPOKANE, Wash. – Washington State University Ph.D. nursing candidate Leslie Randall has received a $10,000 scholarship from Johnson & Johnson companies designated for American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) scholars in an effort to increase their representation among the workforce.

Johnson & Johnson is a longtime advocate for nurses and the nursing profession. Randall is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce tribe from Idaho.

“There are so few AIAN nurses compared to other races,” she said. “We need our AIAN providers and nurses back home where they understand the culture and the population.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurses from minority backgrounds represent 19 percent of the registered nurse workforce, with only 1 percent AIAN. In April 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported a 46 percent higher death rate for AIAN people, along with a 50 percent higher suicide rate than Caucasians.

“AIAN nurses are on the front lines of health services for AIAN people and have the potential to make scientific contributions as well, but are severely underrepresented,” said Robbie Paul, WSU Spokane director of Native American health sciences. “Proactively addressing the lack of AIAN nurses is critical to reducing health disparities among native populations.”

The need to attract diverse nursing students is paralleled by the need to recruit faculty from minority populations. According to 2012 data from AACN’s annual survey, only 12.3 percent of full-time nursing school faculty are minorities and only 5.4 percent are male.

There are 20 AIAN scholars pursuing Ph.D.s in nursing in the U.S.; two of them are enrolled at the WSU College of Nursing. The college has active U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration funding (see based on previously documented success to support AIAN students in pursuit of undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees.

Since 1997, WSU has had a memo of understanding (MOU) with 10 tribes from the Pacific Northwest to strengthen relationships with AIAN people in the region. The MOU helped establish an AIAN advisory board to the WSU president and a Plateau Center to provide outreach to AIAN students. It complements a 1994 state law guaranteeing that AIAN students whose customary and legal boundaries include portions of Washington do not pay out-of-state tuition.

The Johnson & Johnson scholarship aligns with the WSU Research Office Grand Challenges (, which outline university research priorities and strengths. The scholarship supports initiatives for sustaining health and opportunity and equity, which promotes an informed and equitable society and advances social justice.


Alli Benjamin, WSU College of Nursing communications director, 509-324-7340,



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