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New Goldfarb dean seeks to increase minorities in nursing profession

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 8:34 pm

Michael R. Bleich was officially installed as dean of the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College during a ceremony at the school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 21 – somewhat befitting of a leader who wants to recruit more minorities into nursing.

He said the school’s students are “usually between 10 and 15 percent” African-American.

“Compared to most nursing schools, especially in the upper division, we’ve done really pretty well,” Bleich said. “I am not satisfied with that. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that 30 to 40 percent of our students could represent some minority initiative.”

Bleich added there is also a huge need to recruit Hispanic nurses into the field, because of changing demographics.

Bleich said Goldfarb is also trying to recruit a more diverse faculty.

“It’s a fact that students feel more comfortable when they have role models who have a similar cultural background, who look like them, who they can relate to,” he said. “Diversity is not the end point; inclusion is the end point.”

It’s just about recruiting someone, he explained. It’s about capturing their essence and letting them be who they are.

“I want to create an academic culture here that really fosters inclusion,” Bleich said. “I want students here to have an eclectic group of scholars who are at their fingertips who can role-model and mentor for them.”

He is impressed with the existing faculty even as he intends to diversify it.

“This is a mid-career and younger faculty, and I find them to be very vibrant in terms of wanting to create change within the community at large and in serving their careers,” Bleich said.

Bleich notes with interest some less-than-impressive statistics about health disparities in the state and how nurses could play a role in addressing the issue.

“Missouri right now is ranked 46th or 47th in terms of health disparities and conditions that could be managed,” Bleich said.

“And within that bottom rung, we have the most restrictive scope of practice laws that prohibit nurse practitioners from doing work that in other states they are allowed to do. We need to lobby in Jefferson City.”

Once a person has a disease and is being treated for it, Bleich said, the goal as nurses is to keep it from progressing. That complements medicine practiced by physicians, he said.

“And we focus on not only the individual. We also are trained and there is also science around the family and the community,” he said.

“So when people are going to school here, they are learning not only about the individual; we teach them now to study family and family role. We teach them about environmental factors in the community. Nursing is about understanding the interrelationship of the individual to the family, to the community.”

Among his goals is ensuring that Goldfarb presents opportunities for its graduates in all of the areas where nursing is practiced.

“When you look for where you are going to find a nurse, the public forgets that we are in clinics, the school system, the public health system, the correctional system, the military, acute care, ambulatory care, physician’s offices,” he said. “We virtually practice where people live.”

Before coming to St. Louis, Bleich spent four years as a professor of nursing, dean and vice provost for interprofessional education and development at Oregon Health and Science University School of Nursing in Portland.

He has previously served as nursing school professor of nursing at the University of Kansas in Kansas City, Kansas and vice president of patient care services at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

Bleich is a Wisconsin native and he earned his doctorate in human resource development from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, a master of public health from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and a bachelor of science in nursing from Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin. Bleich became a registered nurse in 1976 in Racine, Wisconsin.

Bleich says the profession needs more male nurses. A National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses in 2000 revealed than men represented only 6 percent of the RN workforce.

“To meet the needs in the future, we have to be more gender diverse,” Bleich said.

Bleich looks forward to having a platform to discuss opportunities for his school and profession

“This particular job gives me an opportunity to speak about issues around nursing, nursing education, social justice, those kinds of things,” Bleich said. “I like my platform right now.”

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