The New York Times' "tiny love stories" was the inspiration for this, the first in a new series of nursing student essays

we're calling NURSING NARRATIVES, which earned a 2024 Jefferson Trust grant to expand both the print and digital editions of Virginia Nursing Legacy magazine through May 2025 and beyond.

For this NARRATIVES, DNP students were offered the following prompt by professors Gina DeGennaro and Beth Epstein for the optional assignment:

In 55 words or fewer (not including words in your title), please share a mini personal story related to your life as a nurse—a story from your own life that captures an aspect of nursing. Any and all emotions are welcome: happy, sad, joyful, fear, anger, wonder.

Aatika Wright, DNP student

Choosing Peace Over Pain

My shift began at 0630. At 0635, a woman hung in balance due to COVID-19. Her trembling hand sought mine, her nurse practitioner, with a silent plea. Our journey to the ICU was a walk of shared humanity, her last. She refused heroic measures. She chose peace over pain, a gentle release. 

- Aatika Wright, MS, RN, CCRN, AGACNP-BC (DNP ’25)

Wright works as an acute care nurse practitioner for Sentara in Virginia Beach, Va.


Putting on My Game Face

Today in the ICU, I grieved alongside a husband who lost his wife of forty years. Driving in my car after work, I once again stuff down the emotions from another day of loss. I arrive home with my game face on, like death never happened. 

- Courtney S. Crawford, RN, BSN, CMSRN (AGACNP ’25, DNP ’26)

Crawford, a student in the BSN to DNP program, is a nurse working in Chesterfield, Va.

Heather Sorrell

The Quandary

“I’ll be gentle,” the phlebotomist tells the patient staring unflinchingly at the ceiling. She is unable to understand the actively suicidal person lying there. “It’s not about pain,” I say. At this moment, I feel the quandary between right and wrong. This familiar feeling, the intricate relationship of ethics and nursing.

- Heather S. Sorrell, PMHRN-BC, BSN (MSN ’24)

Sorrell, of Charlottesville, Va., has been a nurse with INOVA, Sentara, and UVA Health, and a clinical instructor for UVA School of Nursing students on their psychiatric mental health clinical rotations.

Pamela Byrnes, DNP student and psychiatric NP

The Lifeboat

Witnessing mental illness slowly seep into young, innocent lives, each child has a different story, yet it sometimes feels the same. Many times, the camera angle makes it challenging to read their expressions. Often, I feel powerless against the systemic gaps, yet powerful that I am part of their lifeboat as we battle the waves together.

- Pamela Walker Byrnes, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC (DNP ’25)

Byrnes is a psychiatric nurse practitioner practicing out of an adolescent mental health clinic based in Wytheville, Va.

Dominica Ko DNP student

A Shot of Whiskey

In the face of metastatic hepatic carcinoma, J demonstrated courage during his final days. Opting for comfort care, he defied expectations. On day seven, yearning for a shot of whiskey, he reunited with his estranged son. They shared precious moments before J peacefully passed, reinforcing my belief in facilitating closure near the end of life.

- HyunSun Dominica Ko, MSN, FNP-C, APRN-B (DNP ’26)

Ko is a nurse practitioner affiliated with Henrico Doctors' Hospital and Bon Secours in Richmond, Va.


Self-expression is a critical ingredient to care, well-being, and agency, and NURSING NARRATIVES is a new editorial section for UVA nurses to do just that. VNL thanks the Jefferson Trust, which has funded this enterprise in both VNL's print and digital editions through May 2025.

Edited by DNP student, nurse writer, and psychiatric nurse Sherrie Page Guyer. Curious about how you can contribute to NARRATIVES in a future edition? Email Sherrie.

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