Rounds with Leadership: Building a Culture of Belonging

AACN Board Chair Cynthia McCurren and AACN CEO Deborah Trautman

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

Developing diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible environments where there is a collective sense of belonging is critical to achieving academic nursing’s mission and priorities. When students, staff, and faculty feel valued, respected, and welcomed by their classmates and peers, they report experiencing a stronger bond with the greater campus community and the nursing profession. In this environment, students feel safe enough to share experiences, engage in thoughtful discussions, and offer support to others. Faculty and staff are empowered and energized in their work to prepare the next generation of nurses.

Earlier this month, AACN announced that its Leading Across Multidimensional Perspectives (LAMPSM) Culture and Climate Survey is now available to all interested schools of nursing. The LAMP survey assesses student, faculty, and staff perceptions of their college classrooms as communities in five thematic areas:  fair treatment and observations of discrimination, belongingness, value of diversity and inclusion, campus services, and clinical training.

AACN recently concluded its work on a Johnson & Johnson-funded project centered on scaling up the use of LAMP for a national audience. This project engaged 51 schools of nursing, representing a variety of institutional types, in a pilot administration of the culture and climate survey to ensure that this instrument was valid and that findings are useful in establishing benchmarks that help administrators understand their program’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to inclusion and belongingness.

An analysis of the 2023 LAMP survey findings indicates significant differences among students, faculty, and staff in response to key questions. For example:

  • 76% of faculty and 80% of staff feel connected with their schools of nursing, while just over 60% of students report feeling a strong sense of belonging.
  • 32% of white students and 46% of African American and Asian students believe that subtle discrimination and microaggressions may exist in the structure of their programs. Among faculty, 55% of white faculty, 69% of African American faculty, and 61% of Asian faculty also agree.
  • Over 50% of students agree that students of all races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities are treated fairly. More than 75% of faculty and 55% of staff also agree.
  • A strong majority across all surveyed groups (74% and higher) agree that a diverse student body enhances the educational experience of all students.

Findings from this AACN-led initiative, as well as research focused on belongingness in nursing and higher education, are compiled in a newly released monograph titled Building a Culture of Belonging in Academic Nursing. This handy publication addresses how values, beliefs, norms, and behaviors influence an organization’s culture and how connected individuals feel with the campus and the nursing profession overall. In addition to findings from the 2023 LAMP survey,  the monograph includes 40 specific strategies that deans and faculty can use to foster inclusive excellence, including recommendations on enhancing belongingness and engagement among students, faculty, and staff.

We encourage all members of the academic nursing community to review this important document and find out more about how your school can deploy the LAMP survey at your institution by completing the online inquiry form. We strongly believe that creating a more inclusive learning environment and preparing a more diverse nursing workforce is critical to providing high-quality care, fixing healthcare disparities, and ending health inequities.