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March 21, 2023

Achieving Health Equity through Education: A Conversation with Dean Roberta Waite

By Abby Brown (N'25)

Dean Roberta Waite of Georgetown University’s School of Nursing joined our Conversations in Health: Global to Local class on February 28, 2023, to discuss the presence of structural racism in health care and how we can address these issues and achieve health equity through education. As an expert in psychiatric-mental health nursing, she emphasized the fact that health starts at a very personal level, within one’s home environment. At Georgetown, like many other nursing schools, the acute care setting makes up a majority of the clinical experiences for students in addition to their pharmacology and pathophysiology classes. While these are important foundational areas in which nurses must be knowledgeable, there is still a lot that they must learn in order to truly care for people and get to the root of their health status. Dean Waite explained that by developing relationships with local organizations in the nearby area, nursing programs can eventually expand their clinical experiences to more community-based health clinics or home visits so that students can understand the way patients live outside of the hospital setting.

In addition to broadening the scope of nursing students’ clinical experiences, Dean Waite also spoke about the need for nurses to understand the implications of health policy on the access to care that people have, and how this must start while in school. Along with conversations about policy, there must also be uncomfortable, yet important dialogue about how racism is embedded within the health care system. Rather than simply categorizing certain groups as “at risk,” or concluding that the “social determinants of health” are at the heart of equity and access issues, Dean Waite asserted that we must do better and fix these specific issues where they start because that is what will improve health care.

This conversation was incredibly engaging and gives hopeful insight into the future of the nursing profession as well as nursing education at Georgetown. It was wonderful to hear from an expert in education and clinical practice, and it is clear that there is some important and intersectional work that needs to be done. Within a city like Washington, DC, Georgetown University has the opportunity to make a lasting impact on nursing education through the leadership of Dean Roberta Waite.

Abby Brown (N'25) is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University studying nursing. She is a student in the Conversations in Health: Global to Local class.