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Hershaw Davis, Jr., MSN, RN, a first year Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.

December 2013

Davis was named a Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future and American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Fall 2013 Minority Nurse Faculty scholar. Additionally, Davis was a National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) Board Member from 2009-2010. Davis’ research focuses on healthcare delivery and health disparities among vulnerable populations.

Q. When did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and why?

A. I actually decided to pursue nursing as a second career choice after serving our country. I'm happy I had some experience and maturity behind me before I entered nursing, but I always wanted to serve my fellow man. Nursing seemed like the highest form of service.

I received my BSN in 2009, and then practiced emergency nursing in Johns Hopkins Hospital’s adult emergency department. I decided to continue my education because I wanted to give back to my profession by teaching the next generation of nurses.

Q. Why did you decide to pursue research on health disparities among vulnerable populations?

A. I have worked with vulnerable populations throughout my entire career as an emergency department nurse. Many patients use the emergency department as their sole form of healthcare. Through my work, I grew interested in learning more about how our healthcare system affects all people, especially the economically disadvantaged and racial minority populations.

I am also interested in researching diabetes in vulnerable populations – diabetes is a disease often accompanied with comorbidities that can be extra challenging. I believe primary care access can help manage and eventually prevent this disease.

Q. How has nursing impacted your life?

A. Nursing has taught me to be humble. Everyone has a story, and if you take the time to listen, your world will be forever changed. I am honored that my nursing care can intersect with the patient’s experience and become a part of their story at that moment.

I also enjoy the diversity of patients. My experiences with patients are always a lesson in the richness of humanity and the diversity of the human experience.

Q. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a nurse?

A. Trying to meet the needs of my patients can be challenging, especially in emergency conditions, but when my patients or their family members say thank you, it makes all of my challenges seem small in the grand scheme of things.

I enjoy seeing my patients and their family members in the community, especially when the patient is full of life and energy, or when the family has a positive update on their loved one. The fact that I am remembered as part of their healthcare experience is humbling.

Q. Why is it important for nurses to “give back” to their community?

A. Service is at the core of our calling. We are at the frontline of healthcare, and we have been commissioned with this duty since the days of Florence Nightingale. We must engage the communities we serve so that we can properly meet their healthcare needs – this includes education programs, clothing drives, etc.

Whether you provide a smile, hold a hand or take time to talk with your patients, that compassion goes a long way to ease their suffering. This compassionate care is not in any job description or oath we take but, it is inherent to the role of a nurse. Compassionate care is at the heart of nursing.

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