Diversity in health care becomes a focus for Frontier Nursing University

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HYDEN, Ky. (WYMT) - Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is hosting its eighth annual Diversity Student Conference from June 7-10 on campus.

Students, alumni, and faculty are gathering at the Wendover Bed and Breakfast Inn for the four-day retreat in the mountains.

FNU officials say this conference gives medical students a safe place to get these difficult conversations flowing.

Dr. Susan Stone, President of the university, says their focus is to create a diverse workforce that brings better care to Appalachia.

"[We wonder] how do these biases affect the way that we provide care and affect the entire health care system?" Stone said.

"We all have these unconscious biases, so how do we get past those biases and give good care to families? That is our major agenda ... to learn how to serve our patients better through some diversity initiatives."

Faculty and staff say this retreat allows for them to understand the difficulties people of different races, religion, and sexuality face through cross-cultural activities, intercultural workshops, and with help from the keynote speakers.

"We need to be equipped and be able to serve those patients to help improve their outcomes," Nena Harris says.

Alumni say students are creating awareness by asking their own questions first, concerning recruitment and an increase in diversity in nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner education.

"We don't know what's going on in people's heads, so if you can just have an open dialogue - if you don't know anything, just ask a question," James Johnson said. "No question is a silly question and just keep it open."

Hadassah Rooney, a mother of four, says she is taking core classes and is quickly realizing not all medical experiences are as easy as her own.

"You know, I've had great midwives and great health care throughout my pregnancies so I was really unaware," Rooney said. "[But] it's not even about economics. It's not about education. You know, African American mothers just die more frequently in childbirth and around childbirth."

Now she, among many others, are hoping to move past the biases and save even more lives.

"It is imperative for us to really look into these issues and figure out why [they are happening] and to help ameliorate this huge health problem."

University officials say though they recently purchased new land in Versailles for a larger campus, they do plan to use both locations to host this event next year.