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Penn State Health debuts photojournalistic project for National Nurses Week

In nursing school, Chelsea Stoner learned all the necessary skills—patient assessment, medication calculations, charting—to train her for a career in health care, but nothing could prepare her for the raw emotions she would encounter.

“In every patient, I saw my neighbor, my father, my grandmother…I found myself crying in the supply room, in the parking garage and at home,” said Stoner, who works in Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center's Medical Intermediate Care Unit (MIMCU). “To protect myself, I decided to shut it all off. I clocked in, did my job and left…But then I lost the most important part of nursing—the human connection.”

In time, Stoner, a registered nurse for four years, learned how to balance the many aspects of her role—technician, caretaker, physician partner, encourager—and contributor to some of the most important moments in a person's life story.

“Some of these patients have lived for almost a century, and I get the honor of being the last person to care for them, to hold their hand and to pray with them,” she said. “This is what gets me through the day and helps me to keep doing what I'm doing.”

Being a nurse takes grit paired with tenderness, methodical diligence and on-the-spot resourcefulness, nerves of steel yet words of compassion. It's a “calling,” people often say, with admiration but little understanding of what the job entails.

Carry the Day: The Power of a Nurse - Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
“There's a stereotype of nurses—as compassionate and caring—but nurses use evidence-based practice and autonomous decision-making to achieve positive patient outcomes,” said Jenn Oehme Knepper, critical care float nurse at the Medical Center. “Many times in the intensive care unit, people tell me they had no idea nurses know all the things they do.”

To promote awareness of the power behind the compassion, photographers Jen Foster, Donovan Roberts Witmer and Jeremy Hess of The Premise Studio in Lancaster, Pa., spent two days taking photos of nurses in the MIMCU and MICU of Hershey Medical Center.

The result is “Carry the Day: The Power of a Nurse”—starkly raw and emotionally real images of nurses demonstrating poise under pressure, pairing skill with hope in each critical and quiet moment of care.

Learn more about the project – and view more of the photos – in this Penn State Medicine article.

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