1. Drayton-Brooks, Shirlee
  2. Patterson, Barbara J.

Article Content

In the current context of health care, there is considerable hesitancy and mistrust of research among the at-risk public. To achieve DEI, that is, diversity, equity, and inclusion in research, nursing education has focused attention on the importance of minority population participation in nursing education studies and nurse scientist research careers (Aycock et al., 2021). As the National Institute of Nursing Research emphasizes its newest strategic agenda planning process, an important goal is being refined: "to invest in education, training, outreach, and career development to foster a diverse workforce and encourage inclusion across the scientific community" (National Institute of Nursing Research, 2021, p. 4). The National League for Nursing Research Priorities for Nursing Education emphasize the expansion of DEI as a means to enhance nurse faculty workforce research capacity (National League for Nursing, 2020).

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It will be difficult to meet current priorities and demonstrate linkages among teaching effectiveness, student learning, patient outcomes, and quality and safety without a diverse participant pool in nursing education research. Furthermore, nursing education studies without strong recruitment strategies and diverse participation have a poor generalizability of results. According to Patterson and Mikovits (2021), it is an ethical mandate to ensure appropriate representation in research samples. A lack of diversity in nursing education research weakens equity and inclusion priorities and limits the impact of studies. The chronic underrepresentation of minority participation in nursing education research suggests that diversity, equity, and inclusivity have not been fully embraced.


It is generally accepted that investigations can be enriched through the sharing of different ideas and perspectives with diverse research teams and improved representation of ethnic minority participants. Results of research findings suggest that research teams and participation from diverse communities can lead to greater innovation and improved outcomes.


Although an expanded definition of diversity is critical in nursing education research, the benefits of DEI are well documented. It is generally accepted that investigations can be enriched through the sharing of different ideas and perspectives with diverse research teams and improved representation of ethnic minority participants. Results of research findings suggest that research teams and participation from diverse communities can lead to greater innovation and improved outcomes.


Recruitment of participants for research who have been historically marginalized in social settings, and even in higher education, will continue to be challenging but possible. Many minority nursing students are vulnerable and may live on the edge of poverty. These students are part of an individualist society, a culture of rabid structural racism. They directly witness underrepresentation of minority principal investigators and faculty who teach in graduate nursing research programs. As a direct result of experiencing public bias, racism, exclusion, and subsequent inequities, students have developed mistrust and fears related to research. So, why would minority students desire to be a part of nursing education research in this context?


Imagine the scenario of a young nursing student of color who receives frequent requests for research participation from doctoral students and faculty across the nation. The student may complete some of the data requested but ignore other studies. The student may not know the background of the people who are suddenly interested in their ideas and opinions and might be one of few ethnic minority students in a majority white institution. This student more than likely does not have a mentor of the same race or gender.


Those who solicit research participation may be unclear and vague regarding the student's need to understand the intent of the research. Students clearly understand the power differential between faculty and students and may fear that "provocative" answers and opinions would be penalized via grades, especially when the investigators and students are from the same school. Is it unreasonable to assume that the student may feel coerced to respond and even fear that more honest responses may lead to unfair punishment?


Researchers in nursing education must engage in very intentional strategic processes to recruit broadly. Several approaches are required, as certain demographics may be challenging for recruitment. The convenient response from researchers to low recruitment of minority participation has been, "We tried, but minority participants did not respond." This answer is no longer sufficient, particularly when projects are publicly funded. It is unacceptable to provide research participation recruitment flyers that do not clearly state the intent of the research or what will be done with the data. Most students understand that investigators and, hopefully, society will benefit from research that is published and may result in research funding and career advancement. However, they may be suspicious regarding the benefits of student participation, especially when no incentives are offered.


There are well-known research recruitment principles that sadly get overlooked and should be reemphasized. Research evidence should be systematically appraised to learn how others have maximized participation using best practices to recruit minority students. Innovative recruitment approaches can be tried on campus, in churches, salons, supermarkets, and locations where the sought-after participants reside or can be located. Recruiting minority nursing students for research participation can be done through university websites with permission of academic leaders. Minority-serving institutions and organizations, such as the Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority, the National Black Nurses Association, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, and even national and local student nurses' associations, can be strong advocates as well as resources to support recruitment of minority students for nursing education research. Investigators might also seek to partner with minority-serving Greek letter organizations with complementary priorities.


Recruitment materials must be culturally appropriate and reflect multiple strategies. Portraying people of color on recruitment flyers is one simple strategy that communicates to readers and potential participants a thoughtful, deliberate, inclusive recruitment process. In addition, it is critical to be sensitive to the preferred language of minority populations in recruitment materials as designations may have "become dated over time and may hold negative connotations" (American Psychological Association, 2020, p. 142). Do not categorize participants. Materials also should clearly display the sponsoring institution on the study website, including email and mailing address, so that participants can link the study to a trusted source. A snowball recruitment strategy should be considered to increase the likelihood of a referral by a trusted source. Mailings, posted paper flyers, and online recruitment flyers, advertisements, and social media can be used for front-end recruitment. The researcher should follow study participation confirmations with an email and/or telephone call to minimize the perception of fraud.


Minority nursing students, like the general public, often need evidence-based information, education, training, and greater socialization regarding the benefits of participating in research and choosing research careers. There must be investment in education, starting with national standards for excellence in public schools and higher education. Minority students must be mentored to participate in research that can possibly lead to a research career (Aycock et al., 2021). Mentoring by nurse researchers and active participation in at least one study should be built into nursing curricula for all students, not only "honor" students.


The value of being taught by trusted faculty who appreciate diversity and who include minority students in research cannot be underestimated. Faculty investigators need to role model equitable behaviors. Moreover, nursing students must be socialized to the personal benefits of participation in nursing education research and the impact that study outcomes can have on the next generation of students, as well as health care delivery to a diverse, at-risk public.




American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Author. [Context Link]


Aycock D. M., Alexander K. A., Cothran F. A., Randolph S. D., Young H. M., Harden J. T. (2021). Black nurse scientists and the undeniable role of historically black colleges and universities. Nursing Outlook. Advance online publication. [Context Link]


National Institute of Nursing Research. (2021). Strategic plan working group draft framework for 2022-2026.[Context Link]


National League for Nursing. (2020). NLN research priorities in nursing education 2020-2023.[Context Link]


Patterson B. J., Mikovits J. C. (2021). How diverse is your research sample? Prioritizing inclusivity in nursing education research [Editorial]. Nursing Education Perspectives, 42(1), 3-4. 10.1097/01.NEP. 0000000000000768 [Context Link]