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Erica Dougherty, BSN, RN, GNu’20

“Not many people are fortunate enough to be born with their best friend. I, on the other hand, am one of those few lucky people. I have a twin sister. When most people think of twin sisters, they think of two identical girls with common interests and abilities.

That is definitely not the case with Erin and me. Erin is mentally handicapped and nonverbal. She is not only affected by those great social, emotional, and mental barriers, but she is also challenged physically. When most people hear of this, they always ask my family how this affects me. They wonder if I have ever thought about the fact that I could have been in Erin’s situation. They ask if I ever think about how Erin cannot attend college or how she will never be able to have a career. My answer to people when questioned about this is very simple: Yes. Of course, I think about that all the time. I feel that since I was fortunate enough to be given such a great opportunity to achieve, I need to do everything in my ability to do so. I am not only achieving my dreams for myself; I am also achieving them for my sister who will never get the opportunity to achieve the things she might have been able to do.

As a result of Erin’s multiple health issues, I knew from the time I was a young girl, that I wanted to be a nurse. Not just any nurse, but a great nurse. A nurse who can make the sister of a very sick child feel comfortable enough to climb into bed with her sister who was recovering from a grand mal seizure. A nurse who does not only cure, but who also cares. I have always held myself to a strict level of perfectionism that to some would seem unreasonable. I have worked to achieve my goals with the most success possible for both my sister and for myself. The most valuable thing that I have learned since starting my nursing studies, and as my first few years as a nurse, is that in nursing there is no such thing as perfect. An intervention that is beneficial for one patient may not be the best choice for another. It is nursing that has aided me in discovering that as much as nurses care for others, they must also care for themselves and each other. A strong nurse is a nurse who does not only have love for her patients, but also for her colleagues and for herself. Nursing is a team, and on this team, there is no room for perfection because perfection is self-oriented.

I find the profession of nursing to be the magical combination of technical skill and knowledge with love. It demands a sharp mind, a kind heart, and a strong stomach. As nurses, we are granted the unique opportunity to aid in the healing of the minds, hearts, and bodies of not only our patients, but also their families. This privilege is not something I take lightly. I do not simply work as a nurse. I am a nurse. Daily, my heart is filled with gratitude for being a nurse. The past few years as an inpatient and outpatient nurse at Penn, carrying with me the will to do my best work for my patients, I have found myself desiring an expanded role in patient care. In our ever-changing world of health care, the role of nurse practitioners in the continuity of care across the continuum is invaluable. As an aspiring Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner here at Penn, I bring with me my strong desire to not only achieve my career goal of becoming an advanced practitioner to the best of my ability, but also my devotion to caring for patients how I would want a practitioner to care for Erin.”

To submit your own story, visit:www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.