Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

“The Seated Nurse” Discusses Healthcare Career as a Disabled Person

Andrea Dalzell, known across social media as “The Seated Nurse,” spoke to Georgetown University students about how she uses her platform to advocate for better opportunities for disabled people in the field of healthcare at a Feb. 21 event. 

The talk, hosted by Georgetown University’s Disability Cultural Center (DCC), invited Dalzell to discuss her path to becoming the first registered nurse in a wheelchair in New York. Dalzell was diagnosed with transverse myelitis when she was five years old and has been using a wheelchair full time since the age of 12. She spoke about childhood experiences that influenced her decision to become a nurse and the difficulties she faced pursuing her career. 

Dalzell said she first became passionate about equal rights for the disabled community when most students at her high school in New York City could leave the building between classes to buy sandwiches from a nearby corner store, while she had to stay at school at all times due to her disability. 

“It was not really about the bacon, egg and cheese, but I wanted to be considered a part of the normal crowd,” Dalzell said at the event. 

When Dalzell finally had enough and made a dash for the nearby corner store, she said she was immediately called into the principal’s office upon returning to school with a sandwich. 

“The principal said to me that you have three strikes: You are black, a woman and disabled,” Dalzell said. “‘You will be lucky to get through community college.’”

Determined to prove her principal wrong, Dalzell pushed through high school and entered college at the City University of New York as a pre-medical student. 

While completing her college education, Dalzell audited a variety of medical school classes and noticed that, often, doctors described their patients in a way that centered their medical condition over their humanity.

“Every time the professor spoke, the disease process was the first thing that came out of their mouth,” Dalzell said. “I am no longer Andrea, I am diabetes.”

This perception of physicians motivated Andrea to instead become a nurse, as she believed that they always treated their patients as humans first. 

However, Dalzell said that when she entered nursing school, she immediately faced school administrators doubting her ability to perform the job. 

“I get pulled out of orientation, and they tell me that they don’t know if I can be in the nursing program,” Dalzell said. 

However, Dalzell said, contrary to these concerns, her experience as a disabled person makes her a more knowledgeable, compassionate nurse who has experience on both sides of the medical system. 

“I had the highest advantage of every nurse around me because I know the conversations behind the curtains,” Dalzell said. “I know the conversations the doctors are having because I have lived them.”

The Seated Nurse | Andrea Dalzell, who is also known as “The Seated Nurse,” gave a talk on Feb. 21 hosted by Georgetown University’s Disability Cultural Center on her path to becoming the first registered nurse in the state of New York, and her mission to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Natalie Fung (SOH ’26), a student who attended the talk, said that Dalzell inspires her to treat her future patients with respect and validation. 

“A huge takeaway from this talk is how I, as a future member of the healthcare system, should act towards my patients in the future,” Fung told The Hoya. 

While Dalzell struggled to secure a nursing job after graduation, she said that the COVID-19 pandemic created high demand for nurses, opening up wider employment opportunities. After 76 interviews, Dalzell secured work in 2020 as a nurse in an intensive care unit (ICU) due to her expertise with ventilator machines.

“Hospitals put out a call for all nurses to come out of retirement,” Dalzell said. “The other nurses found out that I had vent knowledge and I was sent straight to the ICU.” 

Alongside her work as a nurse, Dalzell continues to advocate for opportunities for disabled people working in healthcare using her platform Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Access. 

Neha Gunda (SOH ’26), another pre-medical student who attended the talk, said that Dalzell inspires her to support inclusive practices in the healthcare industry. 

“Andrea models to others with disabilities that you can achieve your goals by surrounding yourselves with people who support you and by staying true to your goals in life no matter the obstacles in your way,” Gunda told The Hoya. “After listening to Andrea speak, I felt inspired to advocate for greater inclusion and representation in workplaces.”

Dalzell said that she would never have gotten the opportunity to work in the ICU, which she described as a challenging yet rewarding environment, without taking chances and following her dreams as a child.

“If I never got off the school bus and hitched it to the deli, I probably would never have found my voice,” Dalzell said. 

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