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Emily Layne, Nu’20

After completing 900+ clinical hours, I believed I had developed a thorough understanding of the challenges patients face. As a graduate of Penn Nursing’s traditional BSN program, I dedicated four years of my life to learning the art and science of holistically caring for patients. But after undergoing knee surgery, I discovered that nothing could have prepared me for my own recovery process.

Despite a lifetime of knee complications, I was blessed to not have experienced an admission or medical procedure. Yet, after countless knee dislocations, numerous sessions of physical therapy, and one particularly frightening injury, I accepted the reality that surgery was the best option to prevent further harm. So, as I excitedly anticipated my college graduation, I also prepared for my first operation.


While COVID-19 cancelled the remainder of my senior year and commencement, it thankfully only delayed my procedure. When elective surgeries did resume in my home state, they did so with modifications in care. I got tested for coronavirus days before my procedure and was required to self-isolate until my surgery. Upon arriving at the hospital, I checked in with my family by my side, but had to say goodbye to them before entering the unit. In the moments that I sat alone in my hospital room, I realized how different healthcare looks like from a patient’s perspective. Throughout my time at Penn, my experiences with healthcare provided me with opportunities of learning, growth, and development. Now my clean room seemed a little too sterile, my hospital gown reminded me of what was to come, and the new pandemic measures amplified my nerves. But even though I did not have my family with me, my nurses supported and reassured me throughout my admission. They ensured that my needs were met, kept my family updated when I could not, and were there for me when no one else could be. Even with the changes from COVID-19, I felt reassured, comforted, and cared for by my nurses – something that I will reflect back on in future interactions with my own patients.


My recovery has not been a straight path. At Penn, I was a nursing student, Division-I varsity swimmer, and an involved member of the Penn community. Yet the transition to being anchored down be a leg brace, unable to take care of myself, was a reality that I was completely unprepared for. Difficulties at physical therapy and the pain in healing gave rise to moments of doubt, ones where I questioned if this process would be worth it. But, with the assistance of my treatment team and my own support system, I found myself beginning to take literal steps forward.


During my Commencement, Dean Villarruel spoke of the resilience, agility, and commitment of Penn Nursing graduates. I possess a newly discovered appreciation for these characteristics now that I have been on the other side of care. Going from caring for patients to being a patient needing care has allowed me to develop a newfound empathy for my past and future patients, who have their own personal struggles with recovery. Whether an encounter is inpatient or outpatient, the recovery process is days or months, or interactions are accompanied by masks and face shields, the ability to rely on providers with these qualities make challenges seem a little less daunting.


While my 900+ clinical hours did not necessarily prepare me for the challenges of my own recovery, they provided me a framework upon which I will become a resilient, agile, and committed nurse. This chance to have a healthier future for myself has also become an opportunity to further understand the challenges that patients may face in their healthcare journey, especially with changes in care due to COVID-19. I am so grateful to Penn Nursing for teaching me and my treatment team for showing me resiliency, agility, and commitment. I eagerly anticipate the moment in which I will be able to help my own patients take their own steps forward!

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