• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Dr. Kellie Bryant on advancing health equity and nursing

Dr. Kellie Bryant on advancing health equity and nursing


Dr. Kellie Bryant is the Director of the Center for Innovation in Education Excellence at the National League for Nursing. Dr. Bryant has garnered expertise in her field with a two-decade-long teaching career and 15 years of specialized simulation experience. Within her current role, she provides leadership and strategic direction, focuses on developing revenue-generating initiatives that advance teaching excellence and enhances faculty skills for contemporary learners.

This includes expanding the NLN faculty development program offerings with innovative teaching and learning strategies, enhancing online and in-person resources, and developing new simulation and technology products through collaborations with partners. She also serves as a consultant for Dr. Uché Blackstock’s Advancing Health Equity. Dr. Bryant‘s research pursuits include leveraging simulation to enhance patient safety, prevent opioid overdoses, and create nursing pathway programs to inspire historically marginalized students to pursue a nursing career. Her scholarly accomplishments include the publication of 30+ articles and book chapters.

Munson Steed: Hey, everybody! This is Munson Steed and welcome to Health IQ. It is a real joy to think about those individuals who provide information and service to our community. When you think of health equity and you think of individuals like doctors and surgeons, you often don’t think about that beautiful person who is definitely in the beginning and end of every passage as you walk through, and that is the nurse. And the nurse plays a pivotal role, and we should really think about healthcare without nurses would be horrible. So, I am so proud to have today to introduce you to Dr. Kellie Bryant, Director of the Center of Innovation and Education and Excellence at the National League for Nursing. How are you?

Dr. Kellie Bryant: I’m doing well. Thank you for inviting me here for this conversation.

MS: Yeah, it’s wonderful, when you were beginning your career. Just how did you really get in turn for all those young sisters that are out there, and young brothers thinking about the health field, why is nursing a critical point to enter? And we need people of color in this field?

KB: First of all, when we think about advancing health equity. One of the most critical ways of doing that is, you have to have a diverse workforce that looks like the population they serve, and right now we’re not. We’re not there. 80% of the workforce is white. So, we need more students of color. We need more of our youth to consider a career in nursing. Because patients wanna look up and see somebody that looks like them. It just builds that sense of trust. 

We have research that shows that when we have people in the healthcare field that come from marginalized populations. They tend to look out for their own communities, they tend to go back and work in their own communities, they tend to fight for policies and laws that will help protect the health of marginalized populations. So it’s a win-win, when it comes to the importance of diversifying not only nursing, but all of our health professions.

MS:I love that. Advancing health equity. How important is that? And what should we all know about where we can tell you a role in advancing health equity?

KB: So, it is crucial. There are so many health disparities, I mean, I can name so many. My background is women’s health and black women die 3 to 4 times more often than a white woman, and 60% of it is preventable. So, we just have to do better. I can spew a whole bunch of statistics, whether it’s cardiovascular disease, whether it’s cancer. You think of any disease, and unfortunately, when it comes to black and brown people, we have the highest rates of dying, highest rates of getting certain diseases. So, that’s why it’s important. 

So, one of the things I think we can all do, is making sure that we support our again, our youth, that we’re encouraging our children and people to go into the health professions, that we’re removing those obstacles, that we’re making sure that we support programs, such as our fortunate program that we have with collaboration with J & J, where we’re creating these programs from youth. So, they can start thinking about professions that we’re eliminating barriers such as financial barriers to getting into school. 

And that also as patients, we’re in the hospital and we’re with our loved ones, making sure that we fight to make sure they have equitable care. When we see something, say something. If we see they’re not getting the care they deserve, speaking up. And if we have to speak up to the healthcare providers, and that doesn’t work, then go up to the hospital administrators and let them know that this care is unacceptable. So, we have a voice, and I think we have to use it.

MS: Beautiful. Just talking about collaboration. How important is it to collaborate even with a J & J? How important is that impact? And how important do we all need to understand it? Sustaining collaboration, so others can understand and give us access.

KB: I think collaboration is so important, because we can’t do it on our own. Some of the best work comes from a team. You always say it takes a village. It takes a village to get some of these initiatives and get the best results for them. So, although our organization is great, the Greater New York City black nurses, we have a certain reach. But when you team up with a huge organization, such as Johnson and Johnson. 

It exposes us to not only, we appreciate the financial resources, but also think about all the expertise that live within Johnson and Johnson, thinking about the mentorship they provide, thinking about the doors they can open that we may not be able to open on our own, the networking. So, that’s why I feel like collaboration is so important. Getting us into places where we can get our message across like this form right here and letting people know about the great work that Johnson and Johnson, and also the organization is doing.

Because the more people know about it, the more likely they are to come, even volunteer to support again financially, to advertise the program to others, so that we can find those students that we want in these pathway programs. So to say, collaboration, we absolutely need it.

MS: Beautiful. But that brings me to nurse nursing pathway programs. When people think of a pathway, they’re not certain. Can you kind of describe? ‘Cause it doesn’t sound like a walk in a park, but it does sound like a walk into your future.

KB: So, one of the disservice that we do a lot of times, is we create these programs to introduce students to the health profession. But we wait till they’re in eleventh and twelfth grade. A lot of times, that’s too late. They already made their decisions. If we really wanna have a great pathway program. We need to build in the resources so that they’re being exposed to the certain courses they need to take, that if there’s special tutoring, or sessions that they need. We wanna have that started as early as possible. 

And also, a lot of times when you think about whether you want to be a doctor or a nurse. There’s certain courses that you want to take while you’re in middle school, while you’re in high school, that’ll help prepare you to get into those professions. So, that’s why it’s so important to have these pathway programs where people may not have anybody in their family that’s ever been in the health professions. They have no idea how to even go into nursing school. So, when you have these programs. 

They’re great because they provide the students with mentors. They teach the students about what’s the best way to get into college. What’s important? What classes are important to take? It helps to expose them to all the different health professions. When I was young, all I knew was nursing and medicine. I didn’t even know there was occupational therapy, and physical therapy, and respiratory therapy, and I wonder if I was exposed to that when I was at an earlier age, would I have chosen a different profession, not to say I’m very happy with nursing. I think it is a profession for me. 

But think about all the other students that without that exposure, they would never know the possibilities of all the other health professions, or even know about nursing, because what’s pictured on media and TV isn’t truly a realization of what that profession is like. So, it’s really great to have individuals who work in that field to come, meet with the students, work with the students, whether it’s mentoring them, whether it’s going in there and teaching classes. I think that is crucial. If we really want to increase the number of people that are entering the health field. And again, particularly students of color.

MS: But that’s easy to say but think about you. Why did you choose? You could still be Masters. Why, if you were giving a speech at a Spelman, or a Howard, or Stony Brook, or even any of those colleges? Why would you encourage sisters to get so that they are called to? ‘Cause I’m proud of you, Doctor.

KB: Aw

MS: Why should we push hard to advance to the nth degree of understanding that we need even individuals like yourself to be able to say, Doctor.

KB: So it’s funny you say that, because I’ll be giving the graduation speech at Stony Brook, so I gotta get my speech ready. This is good practice. When you first started, and you said, Why did I choose? You have to know why. Health profession is not for everybody, cause I’m gonna tell you right now. It was hard work. It was not easy. But it was one of the best decisions I ever made. So, that’s kind of what I tell people. I tell them my story. I tell them that I became a nurse because of my grandmother.

My grandmother was a nurse, and who did not get into nursing school because she was black, and to me I can’t believe that in my generation, I know someone who could not get into nursing school because of the color of her skin. I find that unbelievable. So, to hear her story, and to see her struggle to get her, from being an OPN, to an associate degree nurse, to getting a bachelor’s, and then at 50 some years old, going back to school to get her masters at LIU.

I used to sit at the table and watch her doing her homework and seeing her struggle. Having to get tutors, she was my inspiration, honestly. So, that’s what inspired me to become a nurse but I also knew that I wanted a profession where I can help somebody. I know that sounds cheesy, but I didn’t want a profession where I was gonna make people rich. It just wasn’t for me. Personally, I wanted to be able to go home and know I changed somebody’s life. So, I tell that story because I need to hear that, and I talk about the good, but I also talk about the challenges. 

Because I think it’s important to tell those stories, that I didn’t get into nursing school the first time, that when I went to go for my masters they told me I couldn’t start, because I was short 12 credits. When I was going for my doctorate, I went to my research proposal, and I got turned down. I share those stories to say that, you too will have obstacles. But what I want you to learn from my story is, you persevere. You don’t let it get in your way, and you just keep on going, because we’re all gonna experience that in life. 

But when I say that, I am happy with the career I chose. It was one of, like I said, the best decisions I made in my life. And it’s a field where I went from being a bedside nurse to being a nurse practitioner, taking care of pregnant women, to being faculty and teaching at a university, to running a simulation center where I’m running like these high tech mannequins like, I never vision that when you talk to me, when I was like a 16 year old little girl. 

I would have never imagined my career, but it has… It’s good. What other profession can you come out of 4 years and make over 100 grand. But I will say, don’t do it for the money, because it is hard work. And you, really, want to love what you do. So,  that would be the speech that I would tell somebody. Just tell them my story.

MS: I probably would section that out, because there’s so much to that. And there’s so much beautiful perseverance. So, I’m gonna ask you another question. You are a sister with superpowers. What is your superpower?

KB: Oh boy. and it’s funny because I don’t think I have a superpower. When I really think of myself, I wasn’t the straight A student in school, like I wasn’t the smartest one in class. I had decent grades but what I think I did is, I didn’t give up. I think that I worked hard like I wasn’t a natural like my brother. He doesn’t have to read the book, he gets A’s. He doesn’t even have to buy the book. I was one of those who had to highlight, read, study hard to get the grades that I got. 

But what I say is my superpower. I think it is just not taking no for an answer. When doors close, I find a way around it. I think that’s the key, it’s not giving up, and I think a lot of that came from the way I was raised. And my parents, always telling me that as a black woman you had to work twice as hard. And so, always knowing that mediocre is not acceptable. I always, whatever I do, I make sure that I do it to the best of my ability, and it’s paid off.

MS: Super. Well, I wanna thank you for your wonderful insight. I truly understand your tenacious super power, your conviction to excellence and the vision, which probably means you have X-ray vision. And I think of the super powers for you being a light, letting sisters know that it is possible to become doctor and don’t give up, and that you have to be, and taking up rooms in rooms that you may not have been invited to, but know that you belong.

I’m Munson Steed and this is Health IQ. I am hanging, and have been inspired, and want all of you to think about introducing someone that you love early in life, or even if they’re considering another career path to nursing and getting on some pathway to the healthcare industry.  I’m Munson Steed with Dr. Kellie Bryant. Thank you so much Dr. Bryant.

KB: Thank you. Thank you for having me.





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