“I discovered my passion for nursing while serving in Iraq. During my downtime, I volunteered in the emergency room. About 10 minutes into my first shift, we received a call for an inbound patient from a drive-by shooting in downtown Baghdad. The patient was a young woman who was pregnant and had been shot twice, once through the butt and once through her abdomen. I watched in amazement as the medical team worked together to save this woman’s life and knew during that first shift that I had to work in medicine.

Now, having been an ICU nurse for just over five years, I have had my share of moments that have really made me value the role of a nurse. The moments that have probably hit me the hardest were when I was working in the Neurosurgical ICU and taking care of patients with Glioblastomas. I recall two patients specifically, the first a young woman. If I recall correctly, she was 28 at the time, I believe I was 27, and she had been battling this terrible diagnosis for four years. My stretch of days with her were her last. She had come to the end of the road and could hardly communicate. As her parents struggled to do what was right for her, we had a beautiful family meeting where they reviewed a letter she had written months prior explaining her wishes in the event that this moment came. While it was clearly a difficult decision to have to let their daughter go, it was amazing to see the peace and sense of relief they could have knowing that this is what their daughter had wanted. Back in the room, over the stretch of days I cared for her (I think it was three or four), I made time to treat her just like any other 28-year-old I know. I kept her well groomed and presentable for her family, I would openly joke with her and give her a hard time when she would make it difficult for me to turn her; when it was raining one day, she was able to nod when I asked if she would like to see the rain. I still remember a moment when I started cleaning her ears as I noticed there was a buildup of ear wax and I was joking to her (even though she couldn’t really respond) about how dirty they had gotten, her mother happened to walk in and told me how much she appreciated me not treating her any differently, not allowing her to become a ‘patient’, but rather a 28-year-old-friend, and how her daughter had always been a clean freak about her ears so it was great to see that I had taken time to do that. There was so much basic humanity experienced in those moments. I rarely ever let work follow me home but after that experience, I was so emotionally exhausted that it took a few days to come back from that. I was equally rewarded though, as during my time off I felt so much pride in my profession—the privilege that we are allowed to care for a fellow human being when they are so vulnerable.

– Daniel Joshua Porter, BSN, RN, CCRN, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.