SMU eNews

SMU Faculty Present "Spirit Seminars" at National Health Disparities Conference

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) School of Nursing faculty members Marjorie Hammer, MS, FNP, and Miriam Eisenhardt, MPH, RN, presented their learning program called "The Spirit Seminars: Nursing Student Development in Cross-Cultural Care and Addressing Health Disparities" during the Fifth Annual Health Disparities Conference at Columbia University's Teachers College. 

The interactive session provided insights into how educators can encourage students to become change agents and culturally responsive care providers, while addressing the role of evaluation, research, and collaboration in building institutional support and program sustainability.

"The Spirit Seminars," put into practice in 2009, has reached more than 300 SMU students and is designed to give them the tools to provide culturally appropriate care and reduce health disparities.

It is an evidence-based program of sequential seminars developed, implemented, and studied by Hammer and Eisenhardt to fulfill the mandates of Healthy Peoples 2020, the Institute of Medicine, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The California Endowment, and the University's mission to enhance students' cultural responsiveness in caring for diverse populations through top quality education and skills practice.

Goals of the program include: increasing students' awareness, knowledge and skills to optimize their work with diverse populations; promoting the use of linguistically appropriate communication between practitioners and patients; and encouraging individual and community dialogue about commitment to quality care that reduces health disparities.

The program is cost-effective and easily replicable in other institutions of higher education.

Among the key strengths of the seminars are its diverse teaching strategies involving literature, interactive exercises, role-playing, case study analysis, web-based learning and video.  Skilled educators passionate about changing healthcare education provide a safe non-judgmental environment for learners.

Students in SMU's Accelerated Bachelor of Science (ABSN) and Entry Level Masters of Science in Nursing (ELMSN) programs have studied the efficacy of the curriculum for two years through pre- and post- surveys and evaluations. The students rated the seminars highly, and showed significant differences in knowledge of resources and tools, and improved cross-cultural communication compared to control groups. Data analysis is ongoing and utilized to improve the seminars. 

A future goal is to expand the seminars to become a University-wide interprofessional conversation that explores how healthcare professionals can contribute to decreasing health disparities and improving care outcomes for all, generating professionals with a lifelong commitment to practice evidence-based, culturally responsive care.

By Majorie Hammer, MS, FNPc

Faculty members Marjorie Hammer, MS, FNP, and Miriam Eisenhardt, MPH, RN
Faculty members Marjorie Hammer, MS, FNP, and Miriam Eisenhardt, MPH, RN