/////College of Nursing’s Ramirez Goes Extra Mile to Recruit Hispanic Students
College of Nursing’s Ramirez Goes Extra Mile to Recruit Hispanic Students 2018-01-05T09:16:52+00:00

MARCH 24, 2006 | As the only Hispanic nurse in Arkansas with a doctorate degree, Carmen Ramirez, Ed.D., finds herself in great demand.

The distinction has led to her appointment to several campus and state boards, and task forces that promote diversity, the most recent one being commissioner for the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. Ramirez also has taken on the role of Hispanic student recruiter for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Nursing.

Ramirez is the only Hispanic faculty member in the College of Nursing. With the support of College of Nursing Dean Linda Hodges, Ed.D., and Claudia Barone, Ed,D., associate dean for administration, the Puerto Rico native is taking extraordinary steps to diversify her field. One of her main focuses has been integrating cultural diversity into the nursing curriculum.

In addition to her teaching and molecular genetics research, Ramirez is often on the road to schools in Northwest Arkansas, where the Hispanic population is more concentrated.

She introduces herself to students as Carmen, not Dr. Ramirez, and when her potential recruits are comfortable, she begins building the case for a career in nursing using herself as an example. 

“When I tell them about my work in genetics, that I have a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular genetics from the National Institutes of Health, they say, ‘you can do that?’ I say, ‘Well, yeah, you can go as far as you want to.’ I try to instill that success and pride.”

Because of a critical nationwide nursing shortage, the career offers many advantages. “I tell them you will always find a job if you are worried about job security,” she said. “You can pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate degree; there are so many opportunities.”

She also tells them that, because they are bilingual, they can help the sick and injured in the Hispanic community get quality health care. In the past three years Arkansas has had an increase of 127 percent in its Hispanic population, mainly in Northwest Arkansas. This has created a need for more Spanish-speaking nurses and other health care professionals.

A program called Enhancing Nursing Success (ENS) provides incentives for prospective minority nursing students. This federally funded program has provided 21 minorities – four of them Hispanic – scholarships and/or monthly stipends this year. The scholarships are about $2,000 per semester and stipends are $250 a month. The ENS funding also helps the College of Nursing reach into targeted middle and even elementary schools to promote nursing to minorities. As part of this program, Ramirez also networks with Arkansas’ school counselors and meets with them annually about opportunities that will attract more students to nursing. Thanks in part to Ramirez’ efforts the program has exceeded its goals.

“Carmen has been an incredible leader in working with us on this pre-college program, as well as working among the college students and the Hispanic community to try to educate them about nursing and the opportunities that nursing has,” Hodges said. “We’ve been quite successful. Our population of Hispanic students has grown, and we now have two Hispanic students in our doctoral program.”

Ramirez’s skills as a nurse practitioner candidate also enable her to reach out to Arkansas’ growing Hispanic community in another way. She volunteers with the Christian Hispanic Charity Clinic in west Little Rock, driving once a month from her Searcy home to provide free clinical services. She is joined by her husband, Raul Ramirez, M.D. an internist.

“Many people in the Hispanic community need medical attention, but they don’t know how to navigate our complicated medical system,” Ramirez said. “They often don’t have much money, and without an interpreter it is virtually impossible for them to get access to quality medical care.”