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Humans of Penn Nursing: Sophia Busacca, Nu’18, BSN, RN, CNRN

Hello to my friends, professors, alumni, and mentors. As our University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing community continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, it is cathartic and great to share my thoughts with a group who groomed me. Lately, to find solace and light in these times, I have developed a list of little “nuggets of joy” that keep me focused on fighting for love in the world.

My name is Sophia Busacca. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing with the incredible, intelligent, and inspiring Class of 2018. My classmates, professors, alumni, and friends guided and prepared me for many of the humbling moments of my career. I am a neurosciences nurse.

There were many powerful experiences that led me to choose to specialize in this special field of nursing. Two, in particular, were while learning how to assess the Cranial Nerves in Anatomy and Physiology class and completing my final clinical rotation in the Neurosciences ICU at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

I began my nursing career at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Neurocritical Care Unit. The transition from student nurse to registered nurse was both extremely challenging and rewarding. For the first time, I was practicing the nursing science that Penn engrained in me. Each shift was different - but the consistency in all of my shifts was that every patient and family had a story to share. So listening is imperative.

I left the East Coast in November 2019 to work at the University of California, San Francisco Health to be closer to my family. It was a nostalgic move, but with me, I brought invaluable lessons that prepared me for the most solemn, chastening moments of my life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In April 2020, UCSF Health was fortunate that Covid-19 hospitalizations were far and few. Incredible members of UCSF Health and UCSF HEAL Initiative collaborated with the inspiring Navajo Nation to send nurses and doctors to stand in solidarity and battle Covid-19 with Navajo Nation.

I was honored to be part of the group of nurses and doctors. I was a Covid-19 ICU nurse at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, Navajo Nation. Navajo Nation is empowering.

There is a unique force one feels as they drive on Highway 64 past the immense, jaw-dropping, sacred rock, Shiprock, standing at 7,117 feet, to the hospital.

The Navajo are powerful and beautiful people. Their actions and words prove the love and commitment to their community. However, the disparities that have been created due to a lack of unfulfilled promises by the U.S. government are unacceptable.

Every drive home, my mind went to “How can I be hailed as a nurse performing ‘heroic actions’ while I am here?” I have access to running water in my hotel, a grocery store eight minutes from me, a car, and plenty of protective gear UCSF gave me. Many of my patients do not have access to running water, electricity, or grocery stores within adequate distance. How is this fair?

Healthcare starts with access to fresh food, water, transportation.” As a nation, and as a world we can solve food deserts and we can create access to affordable, equitable healthcare. Hate and greed have permeated much of the rhetoric for too long, hindering any discussion of how to implement policies, distribute funds, and build an equitable society.

Love, respect, and listening foster policies for a better world. It is how we achieve the true American dream.

I am proud to be a nurse. My patients and their families have given me so much. They have allowed me to hold their hands, listen and hear their stories, and continue to teach me how to build a better world.

As I reflect back on my time in Navajo Nation with UCSF Health and UCSF HEAL Initiative, their pain that I will never fully comprehend, but love was palpable in the midst of so much hurt.

I witnessed the power of a strong community and I was welcomed into that community with open arms. Finally, I want to share my favorite “nugget of joy” from the past few months. I wrote this down before one of my shifts after a patient shared it with me:

“Beauty is before me, and beauty is behind me, above me and below me hovers the beautiful.” –Navajo Prayer

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