The Inclusion, Diversity, and Excellence Achievement (IDEA) Initiative, led by Associate Dean Susan Kools, was recognized in a study published in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care that assessed the way American nursing schools responded to the murder of George Floyd, looking for six key themes. UVA School of Nursing was noted as one of 10 in the U.S. that addressed all six themes, and offered a full and robust response.
The article - "A Review of Nursing Position Statements on Racism Following the Murder of George Floyd and Other Black Americans" - was published by Indiana University's Amelia Knopf. Knopf and colleagues pointed to two seminal communications written by Kools in particular, including:
Kools – who established IDEA in 2014 – has been repeatedly lauded for leading the School’s anti-racism efforts. IDEA is also the two-time winner of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine's Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award, both in 2018 and 2019.
Well before Floyd's violent death, IDEA's work was expansive, but since that moment has grown even more robust. As a result of community meetings in May 2020, faculty, staff, and nursing students developed an action plan for the School to deepen how racism, bias, and inequity are understood, and how nurses and nursing students can raise their voices against those forces. Four working groups were consequently developed, including:
- the 'Facilitating Diverse Conversations' group, co-led by assistant dean and professor Ishan Williams and student leaders Lindsay Shaw and alumna Paige O'Brien
- the 'Implicit Bias' working group, co-led by Theresa Carroll, senior assistant dean of students, and student Milania Harris
- the 'Amplifying LGBTQ+ Content' working group, co-led by professor Kim Acquaviva and student Lauren Catlett
- and the 'Addressing Racism and Bias at the Hospital' working group, co-led by Susan Kools and student Anna Woepke
“As a nurse, you get thrown on the unit and it’s not the model you’ve trained in, but we know what things should look like: what language to use, what questions to ask, how our body language, neutral face, and eye contact should be. My tool bag is really big, and I know which tools to pull out to get the job done.”Mary Lacy Grecco (DNP `21, BSN `11), a senior clinical research nurse at the National Institutes of Health
IDEA's video "Becoming An Anti-Racist School" has been posted permanently to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s web site as an exemplar.
And the work continues, says Dean Pam Cipriano, “because it was built to be sustained and will continue to impact everything we do, and how we do it.”
Students say the lessons have changed them and their nursing for good.
“I seriously cannot even describe how different my brain is,” said Paige O’Brien (BSN `21), now a cardiac intensive care nurse at Oregon Health Sciences Center in Portland, who helped lead the Diverse Conversations working group. “I’m tougher; I notice a lot more things, and I’m much less sensitive to those who challenge my world views. I just feel such urgency, because you cannot not do this work and be a nurse.”
“As a nurse, you get thrown on the unit and it’s not the model you’ve trained in,” added Mary Lacy Grecco (DNP `21, BSN `11), a senior clinical research nurse at the NIH’s hematology oncology transplant unit who took part in the LGBTQ+ Curriculum working group, “but we know what things should look like: what language to use, what questions to ask, how our body language, neutral face, and eye contact should be.
"My tool bag is really big," she added, "and I know which tools to pull out to get the job done.”