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Supporting the Legacy and Promise of Nursing Education at HBCUs

A Rich Historical Legacy

Born on a farm near Mayesville, South Carolina, in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune, the 15th child of former slaves, had the opportunity to attend and graduate from the Scotia Seminary for Girls in 1893, a pioneering learning institution for Black girls. Believing that education provided the key to racial advancement, Bethune dreamt of opening her own school and moved to Florida to pursue her vision. In 1904, Bethune opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls “with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls” according to the school’s website. The school underwent several stages of growth and development and is today Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU), one of four historically Black college and universities (HBCUs) in the state of Florida.

HBCUs are U.S. institutions of higher learning established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the Black community. For a century after slavery ended in 1865, most higher education institutions were predominantly white and completely disqualified or limited Black enrollment. HBCUs like B-CU were needed to give educational opportunities to Black people, especially in the South.

The Promise of a Mutually Beneficial Partnership

Over 115 years later, AdventHealth is supporting the continuation of the rich legacy of BC-U by partnering with the institution to make higher education in nursing accessible to a diverse student body.

Headshot of Peg Davis

Margaret Davis, a nurse manager at AdventHealth DeLand, is one of the devoted team members leading B-CU partnership efforts and has been providing clinical instruction and support to students at the School of Nursing since 2018.

“Education and equality are very important to me and that's one of the values of looking into the history and starting to really have that strong appreciation for historically Black colleges and universities,” she said. “I have become very passionate about it.”

Davis’ passion led her to seek understanding of B-CU’s historic mission and to explore how AdventHealth could partner with the school to address the needs of its target student population. When B-CU’s nursing program was founded in 1978, it was only the second nursing program to be established at a minority institution in the state of Florida. The School of Nursing seeks to serve a population for whom the course of study might otherwise be inaccessible. Davis learned that, because of this core value, many of the school’s promising nursing students face socioeconomic disadvantages, including the inability to pay for transportation to clinicals, the practical portion of the nursing program. According to Davis, students sometimes also struggled with purchasing the required uniforms, stethoscopes and other necessary equipment for clinicals, in turn leading to lower student success rates. ​​​​​​​

Determined to help both the student population and the nursing program with its accreditation goals, Davis collaborated with the university to implement some key changes such as enhancing the curriculum, providing more leadership classes and offering additional clinical resources and opportunities in the hospital setting, all with the support of her leadership at AdventHealth. ​​​​​​​

“It was really powerful to know that my leadership was behind me and he [CEO of AdventHealth DeLand at the time, Lorenzo Brown] was invested in the success of the program as well,” she said.

Nurses listening to a lecture

AdventHealth’s investments in B-CU proved to be a win-win for both partners, as many campus programs directly support our hospitals’ community health goals. For example, in addition to opening AdventHealth facilities in close proximity to the campus for clinicals, AdventHealth partnered with B-CU to establish AdventHealth Community Care. This program was designed to help local residents manage their chronic diseases with support from a team of B-CU student health coaches who help coordinate free post-discharge care for patients with limited resources. ​​​​​​​

AdventHealth has also provided medical equipment and services, volunteers and donations to the onsite Volusia Volunteers in Medicine Clinic located at B-CU. The clinic provides free health care to working uninsured residents in Volusia County and plays an important role in the community and the School of Nursing’s path to reaccreditation. ​​​​​​​

Davis, along with her B-CU partners, are eagerly awaiting the results of a recent accreditation site visit. The accreditation review focused on the community aspect of the nursing program and, in Davis’ opinion, looking at B-CU through that lens aligns perfectly with the school’s mission. She says she’s proud to be involved in the student- and community-focused initiatives that B-CU is leading. Along with higher passing rates on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for nursing, students at B-CU are now working in clinical settings throughout Volusia County and taking on leadership roles like charge nurse and assistant nurse manager. These community contributions in turn benefit both the nursing and health care profession altogether.

Davis no longer teaches at B-CU but has not let that end her partnership with the school. She currently sits on their advisory board and takes advantage of opportunities to guest lecture and offer clinical support for the university, even as a busy nurse manager of the cardiac unit at AdventHealth DeLand.

“Even though I'm not in the role anymore as an educator, I continue to embrace the calling. And I do recognize that it is a calling because it was something that touched my heart,” she said. “When we work with programs and make changes and roll out initiatives, we often get busy, but sustaining it is where we have to own it. I've made that connection in the fact that I am committed to the success of their program.” ​​​​​​​

Overall, Davis says she’s optimistic about the future of B-CU’s nursing program and is impressed with the nursing talent coming out of the school. She says she hopes AdventHealth will continue to partner with and recruit from this valuable institution.

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