Girl wearing mask holds otoscope up to her eye and looks into manikin face while two women observe standing behind her

Nursing pathway program readies for new students this summer

Summer institute gets funding boost from university grant and supporters


Levert Bryant thinks a career in health care may be in his future. So last summer, the Sacramento Charter High School student spent two weeks in an interactive program at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, that taught him everything he wanted to know about nursing and other disciplines.

“I thought this was a chance to get me introduced to it and it doesn’t hurt to always try something new,” he said at the time.

The program — the Summer Health Institute for Nursing Exploration and Success (SHINES) — is now preparing to receive a new group of eager students. It also hopes to build on a fundraising boost from a UC Davis Crowdfund campaign in February, which provides stipends to the students from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete the program.

“We raised more than $5,000 to support future participants, which reflects the cohesion and passion of our school and community partners,” said Piri Ackerman-Barger, associate dean for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and SHINES creator. “The investment in this program is also an investment in the future of health care and demonstrates to these young people that they bring value to the profession and that they really do have a spot here.”

Nurse wearing mask and scrubs stands behind hospital bed talking with high school students gathered nearby around the bed.
SHINES offers underrepresented high school students a pathway to nursing and tips for success in academics.

In addition, Ackerman-Barger and the SHINES team received a $5,000 Public Impact Research Initiative (PIRI) grant from UC Davis Public Scholarship and Engagement. The office established the PIRI grants in 2019 to recognize and support research that is cogenerated with community partners, is of mutual benefit and has a positive public impact.

A diverse workforce improves health outcomes

Research has indicated that the satisfaction of patients and their health outcomes can be enhanced when health care providers share the same racial, ethnic and linguistic background as their patients. This is a major reason why UC Davis Health is committed to training and hiring people who more closely match California’s diverse demographics.

SHINES is a two-week program that invites underrepresented high school students (or recently graduated adults) who are interested in nursing and other medical careers to Betty Irene Moore Hall. They learn about nursing pathways from a variety of faculty members, students and alumni who also share tips on what it takes to be successful for their academic aspirations.

Piri Ackerman-Barger headshot
The investment in this program is also an investment in the future of health care and demonstrates to these young people that they bring value to the profession and that they really do have a spot here.Piri Ackerman-Barger, SHINES director

Patricia Fernandez is a first-year Doctor of Philosophy student who serves as assistant director for SHINES. For her dissertation, she hopes to develop a data-driven evidence-based argument for programs like this.

“One of my goals is to track a few of these students through applying to college and at least the beginning phases of their nursing program and prove that, if you inspire and educate young, it will change the trajectory of their college and hopefully the trajectory of health care,” she said.

Support critical for future success

SHINES includes more than 15 sessions that range from lectures and hands-on workshops to simulation education experiences in state-of-the-art simulation suites. Students are exposed to a rich curriculum with in-depth insights into the role of nurses, how to navigate academia and prepare a professional portfolio. Ackerman-Barger says outside investment is critical to the long-term success of the program.

“Depending on how much funding we'll have is going to help us determine how many students we can take each year,” Ackerman-Barger said. “The magic of diversity and inclusion is the sense that individuals realize what they contribute is valued. I think SHINES is one of the many things that will help us get to a place of health equity.”

Students sit around a propeller-shaped table talking to one another.
SHINES designs workshops to improve students’ presentation skills and how to prepare a professional portfolio.

Supporters of the program include AARP, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the UC Davis Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and Improve Your Tomorrow. Other groups critical to the program’s success are the Capital City Black Nurses Association (CCBNA), the local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN), the Philippine Nurses Association, the Hmong Nurses Association, St. Hope Sacramento High Charter School, Cristo Rey High School and Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School.

The SHINES team accepts applications for summer 2023 enrollment through April 15. Sacramento-area high school juniors and seniors, or current community college students, with an interest in nursing or health care are eligible to apply. Currently there are more than 120 applicants for 50 spots for the session that runs July 10 through July 21. Program leaders also host several group mentoring sessions throughout the year connecting SHINES graduates with School of Nursing alumni.

“I just think this is an incredible opportunity that I hope people really continue to invest in,” Fernandez said. “This can be something that is continuous and everlasting.”