Andrea Wollitz: Nursing Student Advocates for Access to Health Care for All

Andrea Wollitz

Andrea Wollitz wears many hats: nursing student, advocate, volunteer, mentor, mother. But in everything she does — whether in the classroom, at the hospital with patients, or at home with her kids — Andrea is determined to advance gender equality and equal access to health care.

As a survivor of domestic violence, Andrea now advocates for women in the same situation she once faced by transforming her lived experience into lessons and shows of support. “I don’t want other women to feel that there isn’t help,” she says.

She volunteers at a shelter for survivors of gender-based violence and their families and also with SafeSpace, which provides services ranging from a domestic violence hotline to a shelter for survivors, as well as mental health support for survivors of physical and emotional abuse and their children.

Andrea says it is powerful to speak with women at the shelter who know that she understands and has been through a similar situation. “It’s comforting to me as well to be that person, especially for those who have no one else,” she says. She adds that beyond letting them know that she can relate to what they are going through, “I want to empower women to find help and resources and fight for themselves.”

“I want women to know that they can overcome and become more than they ever thought they could,” she says.

Andrea is in her final year at Jacksonville University in Florida, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing, as well as a bachelor of health sciences with a minor in psychology.

“Nurses as a whole have a voice and are a respected profession. I want us to use our voices to further advance women everywhere,” she says.

Andrea Wollitz
As Andrea Wollitz finishes her nursing degree, she’s encouraging fellow health professionals to use their voices to advocate for gender equality. Photo: Andrea Wollitz

Explaining one of the reasons she became a trained advocate with Shot@Life, she says, “It breaks my heart, as both a mother and future nurse, that there are vaccines that people cannot get.” She views vaccine equity as a matter not just of health equity, but also of gender equity.

On campus, Andrea is also involved in the Green Dot program, which aims to end power-based personal violence and create a campus culture that is intolerant of violence. “The program teaches students tools to direct, delegate, and distract so they can safely stand up to others. It allows us to get involved and help promote safety on campus and within our community,” Andrea says. She also serves as president of Jacksonville University’s Student Nurses’ Association and Mentorship program, which offers professional and volunteer opportunities as well as health-related forums.

Nationally, Andrea was elected as Director South for the 2022–2023 National Student Nurses’ Association Board of Directors and serves as Chair of the Population and Global Health Committee. “I’ve loved the opportunity to have a broad spectrum of thinking about health care not just here in the U.S., but globally as well,” says Andrea. “I want to advance women’s access to health care here in the U.S. and internationally as much as possible.” She’s hoping to change the fact that 1.5 billion women around the world lack access to essential health screening, which is unacceptable to her as a nurse and as a woman and a mother. Andrea is connected to global communities of female caretakers, both in a professional sense, with women making up the majority of nurses, and in a personal sense as a mother and daughter. Mothers and daughters perform 76% of unpaid care work globally.

“When you can get a shot in the arm of a child, you give them the chance to grow and reach their full potential. You also give moms the ability to keep going,” she says, noting that mothers typically handle the vast majority of child care. That role is especially challenging when a child is sick because it can affect a mother’s health as well as her economic opportunities and often leads to financial hardship. While the total value of unpaid care work is estimated to be 10% to 39% of gross domestic product, it is a barrier to economic empowerment for women, and women’s rights activists say it is a significant barrier to gender equality. “Vaccinating children and mothers moves along a healthy family and gives all of them the ability to reach their full potential,” Andrea says.

“When you can get a shot in the arm of a child, you give them the chance to grow and reach their full potential. You also give moms the ability to keep going.”

– Andrea Wollitz

“Gender equality is still lacking in many areas,” says Andrea, who has been involved in other projects, including organizing feminine hygiene supply drives to address period poverty and collecting clothing for survivors of sexual assault, whose clothing is often retained as evidence following examination at the hospital.

She notes that her professors have been mentors when it comes to addressing workforce gender issues and acting as advocates. One professor in particular, herself a sexual assault survivor, has inspired Andrea and given her courage. “Her strength is amazing and she empowers all of us to speak up and do what is right,” she says.

Andrea’s motivation comes not only from her past and her current teachers, but also the future and, in particular, the world she wants for her 14-year-old daughter.

“I want her to be able to have opportunities I never had, and I don’t want her to have to fight as hard as I have, whether that is in relationships, professional settings, or anywhere,” she says. “We shouldn’t have to fight extra hard just because we are women. We shouldn’t have to prove we are worthy because we are women.”

For Andrea, #EqualEverywhere means “not having to fight and yell to be heard. I want my daughter and all women to be able to speak quietly, be heard, and be able to reach their full potential.”

Get Involved

If Andrea’s story inspired you, join the movement for gender equality—and share your commitment to making girls and women #EqualEverywhere.

February 15, 2023