As newly appointed dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, I am thrilled to have this opportunity to lead such an inspirational school, and to use my 29 years of experience at Johns Hopkins to lay the foundation for my insight and vision. Throughout my tenure, I’ve had the pleasure of being a student, a junior and senior faculty member, interprofessional colleague, center director, researcher, fund raiser and endowed chair.
Although I have so much experience at Johns Hopkins, being a dean is like no other position. I will be learning and listening every day. And I am committed to using the established excellence of the school and its diverse peoples, to help move our collective vision forward.
As we take the next steps, we recognize that the last year and a half have been hard. We have experienced many personal and professional sacrifices. But despite that, we’ve worked to uphold our mission, and I am confident history will look back on all of us as resilient stewards during a most unpresented time.
The pandemic changed the course of our profession. COVID-19 and the inequities that were uncovered and exacerbated created new opportunities for nursing to change society. The world began to more fully understand the widespread effects of structural racism, social determinants, and the impact daily life—like the ways in which we live, work, learn, love, pray, shop, and play—has on health. These have created new imperatives for nursing. Understanding a person in the context of life circumstances is our wheel house, and as a profession, it is our moment to step up.
As a school, we will focus more on what graduates are able to do rather than on the content that is taught. This provides the opportunity to advance our curriculum to what matters most in people's real lives. And as leaders in nursing, we must prepare future nurses in ways that include, but are not limited to, the acute care setting. Health is lived in the everyday, not just in the ICU and the ER. It is our job to lead our students into the future and equip them for the many roles and settings where our profession is growing.
As nurses, our work and our vision are key to improving health equity. Health care is on the cusp of a transition—moving away from payment for visits and procedures to payment for population health. This is another space where nurses are leading. And I see us taking it further as the principal profession transforming primary care into collaborative team-based care, advocating school nurses who work with parents to improve the health of entire communities, and employing visiting nurses to new parents and their babies and take care of older adults. Nursing has always done these things, but the system is finally realizing their importance.
On a final note, being an inclusive, respectful place includes all of us. Each of us is the reason that our school impacts the world. And our accomplishment and leadership in nursing are because we do it together. So let’s mark the hard year we’ve been through, and look forward to changing nursing, together. What a time to be living in—and improving the health—of the world.
Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
Patricia M. Davidson Professor for Health Equity and Social Justice