A Timeless Mission, An Archaic Name
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 01:01
I love being in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Its small class sizes, student-faculty interaction and research opportunities are unparalleled in the Georgetown community. While I am proud of my school and the incredible work it does, I believe that our name misrepresents who we are. Our students focus on subjects across the health sciences, from health care management and policy — an extremely relevant field in the age of the Affordable Care Act — to international health, which examines the intersection of global health, economics, politics and medicine. In fact, less than one-fourth of freshmen enrolled in the NHS are nursing majors, and a majority of NHS graduates go on to work in medicine, consulting, public health and many other fields.
While the name “School of Nursing” holds historic value for our school, any NHS student or faculty member will tell you that the phrase no longer encompasses the extent of our local and global impact. It is often other members of the Georgetown community and the greater public who still perceive the NHS as primarily a nursing program. Yet a simple name change, from the NHS to the SHS — the School of Health Studies — would be a more accurate representation of the diverse curricula offered. The name would both encompass our excellent nursing program and give due emphasis to the other fields of human science, international health and health care management and policy.
This is not to say that the NHS should change its name simply to appease the uninformed, but as any marketer would tell you, branding matters, especially at a competitive school like Georgetown that looks to draw in a diverse group of talented students. Although the NHS has an acceptance rate on par with the other three undergraduate schools, the student body in the NHS is much more homogenous, with fewer international and male students. The numbers speak for themselves: Of 115 students enrolled in the class of 2017, 22 are male and just five are international students.
While no definitive link can be determined between the application rate of male students and the name “The School of Nursing and Health Studies,” one might be able to say that potential male applicants to the NHS are deterred from applying to the school — or even seriously considering the school — because of its name. By extension, it prevents the NHS from admitting a more diverse class across the four programs, including nursing, and it perpetuates an image of the NHS among many Georgetown students as a sorority of nurses, a phrase that is inaccurate.
I am no different from these students. I paid attention to this stereotype about the NHS before I applied to Georgetown. When I started exploring the international health program, I saw my interests in human health on the individual and global levels intersect. Yet I still struggled, both after my acceptance and after the start of my college career, with whether or not I would be perceived as a nurse by my peers at Georgetown and elsewhere.
As much as I would like to say that my expectations weren’t met, I have been asked when I decided to become a nurse or how I’m enjoying my nursing major. I have the utmost respect for the nursing program, but it frustrates me that I am sometimes perceived as a nurse although I am not studying to become one. My peers in international health have similar experiences, and while we try to correct any misconceptions that we encounter, these perceptions still persist.
I love my school and the diverse and exciting fields in which it excels. I love the students and faculty of the NHS. But I believe that words and names matter, and it’s time for a change to a name that represents who we are right now, not who we were throughout our history.
Marnie Klein is a freshman in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.