Akron Children’s Hospital received a national nursing award this week for its program to increase staff diversity.

Chief Operating Officer Lisa Aurilio accepted the Prism Diversity Award from the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) on Thursday at the organization’s national conference in San Diego. The award, sponsored by  the American Nurses Credentialing Center, recognizes an organization or individual who is a leader in advancing diversity efforts within the nursing profession, health care organization or community.

Akron Children’s Hospital created its Assuring Success with a Commitment to Enhance Nurse Diversity (ASCEND) program in 2015 in response to a growing need for nursing staffs that better reflect the communities they serve. A recent study from the National County of State Boards of Nursing found that 93 percent of registered nurses are female and 83 percent are white. Students who participate in the ASCEND program must be from a minority group, male or first generation college student — all of which are underrepresented groups in nursing.

The 10-week summer internship, designed for nursing students entering their senior year, provides students professional development opportunities, hands-on nurse-related activities and the potential for future employment. Eligible students must be pursuing their degree through one of the program’s partner nursing schools that include Ashland University, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Hiram College, Kent State University, Malone University, Notre Dame College, University of Akron, University of Mount Union, Ursuline College, Walsh University and Youngstown State University.

“Akron Children’s Hospital is honored to be recognized ... for the efforts of its nurse leaders and nursing team to advance the diversity of our nursing workforce,” Aurilio said. “Our clinical team understands the importance of providing culturally sensitive care to our patients and families, and the ASCEND program is an effort to ensure that our nursing workforce reflects our patients and the communities we serve.”

Robyn Begley, AONE CEO, said Akron Children's effort embodies the nurse executives group's guiding principles for diversity in health care.

“The program is an exemplar of how hospitals and health organizations allocate resources to implement a diversity program and partner with nursing schools to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, reflecting the organization’s patient population,” Begley said.