Themes in New ‘Future of Nursing’ Report Align with Georgetown Nursing’s Commitment to Health Equity

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May 12, 2021 – A newly issued report by the National Academy of Medicine, The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity, illuminates strategic directions and themes that align with Georgetown Nursing’s work to advance health equity.

Dr. Mary Wakefield, who served as a visiting distinguished professor at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, co-chaired the committee with Dr. David Williams, the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The report was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Download a copy of the report.)

The cover of the new National Academy of Medicine report, "The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity" featuring photographs of individuals.
The cover of the new National Academy of Medicine report Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity. (Photo courtesy of the National Academy of Medicine.)

Georgetown BSN alumna Dr. Ashley Darcy-Mahoney (NHS’06), distinguished nurse scholar-in-residence at the academy, helped staff the effort, working with Dr. Susan Hassmiller, RWJF’s senior advisor for nursing and advisor to the NAM president on nursing, among others. 

Speakers at the event illuminated how nurses, including through interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaborations, should lead in the advancement of health equity by addressing the determinants of health, racism, and social inequities, as well as educating the profession’s next generation to be leaders.

“While the 2011 The Future of Nursing report was about building the capacity of the nursing workforce, this report clearly answers the question of to what end,” Wakefield and Williams write in the report’s opening. “Nursing capacity must be brought to bear on . . . complex health and social issues and inequities. By virtue of its history, its focus, and its presence across sectors and populations, the nursing profession is well positioned to bring its expertise to working in partnership with other disciplines and sectors to leverage contemporary opportunities and address deep-seated health and social challenges.”

Dr. Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, writes in the report’s foreword how nurses witnessed COVID’s “inequitable impact on those they serve,” as well as the nursing profession.

“Nurses are more likely to die than are other health care professionals, and nurses of color are far more likely to die,” he writes. 

“As this report points out with compelling evidence, nurses can play a central role in addressing these inequities across the entire spectrum,” Dzau writes. “The nation cannot achieve true health equity without nurses, which means it must do better for nurses. They must be supported  in charting a path for themselves while they work to serve others. This report is intended to do just that.”

Georgetown and Health Equity

Some examples of the work of Georgetown’s nursing faculty in the area of health equity include:

Planning is underway for a PhD in Nursing with a focus on health equity and ethics. In 2011, nursing faculty launched Georgetown’s first-ever online degree-granting program to educated advanced nurses around the country, including in rural and underserved areas. During the past decade, more than 2,200 students have graduated.

Dr. Edilma Yearwood, chair of the Department of Professional Nursing Practice, co-edited a special issue of Archives of Psychiatric Nursing that examines mental health and the social determinants of health. 

Yearwood, who co-teaches a multidisciplinary Health Equity Think Think Tank course, is also principal investigator on a five-year grant award, “Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program,” from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The collaborative endeavor includes partners at Children’s National, Georgetown, and Mary’s Center. 

Georgetown nursing students, faculty, and graduates have been promoting public health through participation in COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

Dr. Kelly Walker, director of the Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and WHNP Programs; Professor Heather Bradford, assistant director, Professor Melicia Escobar, clinical faculty director; and Dr. Christina Marea, a program faculty member, have created a health equity focus in the curriculum.

BSN alumna Maria S. Gomez (NHS’77), who has served as a visiting distinguished professor at NHS, founded Mary’s Center in 1988 and serves as the organization’s president and CEO. The multisite, award-winning community health center serves more than 60,000 people in the Washington, DC, area through a “social change model” including education, health care, and social services. The school enjoys collaborations with Mary’s Center.

Dr. Melody Wilkinson, an associate professor who led the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, has been on academic leave this year in order to work, via the CDC Foundation, in the state of West Virginia. She is director of strategic operations and preparedness for the Governor’s Joint Interagency Task Force – COVID 19 Vaccine (JIATF). Wilkinson has previously led experiential learning opportunities for nursing students to work with a rural community in the state, including with faculty colleagues and Dr. Mary Haras, chair of the Department of Advanced Nursing Practice.

Dr. Carol Taylor, professor of advanced nursing practice, and Dr. Sarah Vittone, assistant professor of professional nursing practice, both continue their work in the field of health care ethics.

Dr. Edilma Yearwood, chair of the Department of Professional Nursing Practice, and Dr. Margaret Nolan, director of the BSN Program, conducted a three-part discussion series in spring 2021 for master’s degree students in the Clinical Nurse Leader Program titled, Social Responsibility: The Role of the Nurse in Antiracism, Disinformation and Times of Uncertainty, Conversations and Actions. The three-part series was offered again to BSN and CNL students this spring.

The new edition of Clinical Practice Guidelines for Midwifery and Women’s Health – involving the contributions of Georgetown editors and authors – looks at midwifery and women’s health practice through a health equity lens. Dr. Cindy Farley, associate professor in Georgetown’s Nurse-Midwifery/WHNP and WHNP Programs, is a co-editor, and Professor Heather Bradford, assistant program director, is an associate editor. Twenty-five faculty, students, and graduates contributed to the textbook, which is now in its sixth edition.

Dr. Roxanne Mirabal-Beltran, assistant professor of professional nursing practice, was named a 2020 Health Disparities Institute Scholar by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health. Mirabal-Beltran’s research interests include Hispanic health disparities, gender equity in health care services, and “how race, gender, education, and socioeconomic status, of both provider and patient, contribute to” health inequities.

Dr. Kelley Anderson, associate professor of professional nursing practice, focuses on the determinants of health in her clinical work and research related to heart failure, the cardiac care field, and maternal mortality. Anderson’s work seeks to give voice to groups who have been underrepresented in academic scholarship, including the African American community and women, and to address health disparities.

Dr. Debora Dole, vice chair of the Department of Advanced Nursing Practice, Dr. Rosemary Sokas, professor of human science, and Dr. Cindy Farley and Dr. Julia Lange Kessler, faculty members in the Nurse-Midwifery/WHNP and WHNP Programs, coauthored, “Partnering to Support Education for Midwives and Nurses in Liberia,” in the February issue of Nursing for Women’s Health. The article describes the professors’ partnership with Holy Family Parish and Health Center in Caldwell, Liberia.

Dr. Elke Zschaebitz, an assistant professor in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, has focused her clinical practice on caring for transgender patients, providing primary care and gender-affirming hormones. Zschaebitz, who works with the Transgender Healthcare Alliance of Central Virginia, also educates and mentors health provider colleagues and community members, while advocating for policy changes to support human rights and dignity.

Dr. Diane Davis, the Susan H. Mayer Professor in Health Equity, presented at the 2020 American Public Health Conference about a collaboration she has co-led with Briya Public Charter School and Mary’s Center to educate medical assistant students through partnership with Georgetown nursing students and faculty. Davis also leads a health-focused pre-orientation program for new Georgetown undergraduates called CURA, one that engages equity and justice.

Professor Susan Coleman, a public health faculty member in the Department of Professional Nursing Practice, is the nursing director with the university’s Health Justice Alliance. Coleman is past chair of the Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association, serves on the advisory committee of the school’s public health minor, and has collaborated with A-SPAN, an Arlington, VA-based organization working to end homelessness.

By Bill Cessato