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Advancing Acute Care Nurses to Address and Manage Social Determinants of Health

Increasing equitable education and patient care

Funded by a Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) grant, this project aims to enhance the capacity of diverse undergraduate nurses to address complex care needs and improve health outcomes, health equity, and access; fill critical gaps in the acute care nursing workforce regarding patients with health inequities and social determinants of health through innovative teaching modules that provide didactic and experiential learning; and increase the diversity of the nursing workforce through the Acute Care Scholars program. 


Grant Goals

Utah has a growing diverse population with a rise primarily in Latinos and Refugee populations. Yet, the nursing workforce has few racially/ethnically diverse nurses that mirror the diversity in Utah. The project aims to:

  • Increase the number of racially/ethnically diverse acute care nurses to mirror the diversity of Utah
  • Increase the competency of the acute care nursing workforce in Utah to provide equitable care that is culturally sensitive and addresses social determinants of health (SDOH)

Grant Objectives

  1. Develop and implement innovative educational training models to prepare nurses for initial and long-term practice in acute care settings and to increase confidence in addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), health equity, cultural awareness, and resiliency skills

  2. Enhance academic-practice partnerships with acute care and community organizations serving disadvantaged, underrepresented, and racially/ethnically diverse populations

  3. Implement a recruitment and retention system targeting racially and ethnically diverse RN-BS students that are committed to working in acute care settings

Acute Care Diversity Scholars Program

The Acute Care Diversity Scholars program was created to support and provide diverse and underrepresented minority RN-BS students with opportunities to develop leadership skills in diverse settings and with diverse communities. This program supports students from rural and underserved communities interested in returning to these communities to work in acute care. 

Participants in this program will receive

  • Trainee financial support ($1500 each semester for 3 semesters)
  • Mentorship from our Program Director Nancy Allen and EDI Director Ana Sanchez-Birkhead 
  • Sponsorship from racially/ethnically diverse community leaders
  • Learning experiences to assess and address social determinants of health, health equity, resiliency skills, and cultural awareness
  • Opportunities to gain organizational leadership skills

Students accepted into the program must commit to completing their required clinical hours in acute care settings in underserved areas or with underserved populations. Travel and lodging funds are available. Telehealth opportunities are available in underserved areas to meet the requirements for the leadership course.

Needs Assessment

We are aware of the many challenges students experience when returning to school. The grant team has developed a needs assessment to learn more about these challenges that is currently being circulated to rural University of Utah affiliate hospitals. Our team will develop strategies to overcome these barriers throughout the course of the grant. Additionally, we are trying to understand how to promote nurses' leadership and quality improvement skills through professional development in acute care settings.

Participate in the surveys:

  1. Nursing and Leadership Survey: Our target audience is hospital administrators, nurse leaders, managers, and human resources experts.  We value each participant’s view of best practices that support nurses as they consider returning to school and gaining relevant skills through professional development
  2. Nurse Survey: Our target audience is all nurses in a healthcare setting, even those who are not considering returning to school or those who already have bachelor’s or higher degrees. All nurses have experience in applying to school and with professional development around leadership and quality improvement

Questions about the survey? Please email or

Meet the Team

Nancy Allen, PHD, ANP-BC

Allen is the Program Director and an Associate Professor who has been active in equity, diversity, inclusion, and outreach activities at the University of Utah and College of Nursing.

Ana Sanchez-Birkhead, PHD, WHNP-BC, APRN

Dr. Sanchez-Birkhead is the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director of the grant. She is an Associate Professor who is a leader in equity, diversity, inclusion, and outreach, and works with several racially and ethnically diverse communities. She manages the Acute Care Scholars Program for the grant. 

Ana Hernandez-Liquin, BS

Hernandez-Liquin is the grant Program Manager. Most of her career has been spent overseeing grants that reduce sexual violence, interpersonal violence and increasing advocacy within disabled and diverse communities.