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Emma Joy, nurse, posing at Northwestern Memorial Hospital room

Emma Joy ’21 earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Harris College and now cares for premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. As part of TCU’s Sesquicentennial celebration, Joy was recently one of four TCU alumni featured on a Chicago mural honoring Horned Frogs leading on in health care.

She sat down with us to tell us about her time at TCU and she shared how her TCU Nursing training prepared her to be the type of compassionate health care professional that patients need.

Communication and Advocacy

Emma Joy checking on an infant with a stethoscope

Joy explains one of the most important things that nurses can provide their patients is support. “I get to practice compassion every day,” said Joy. “It’s usually a very difficult time for parents having to be away from their baby. We get to not only walk them through the difficult stuff but also be there to celebrate the victories.”

Joy experiences a lot of ‘firsts’ with babies, such as being the first one to hold them, giving them their first bath or first bottle feeding.

“If the babies are too sick, we’re unfortunately taking many of those “firsts” away from the parents,” explains Joy. “It’s not what they had pictured in their mind, but it really is a privilege to care for these babies – the trust that the parents put into you as they walk away and know their baby is being well taken care of and loved.”

The best part of her job, she said, is getting witness a baby’s health and overall life improve and knowing she played a part in their healing. “It’s such a great feeling knowing the impact that you had on the baby.”

As a nurse, it’s important to consider the family when caring for sick newborns. Joy says focusing on communication and compassion should be at the forefront of their care plan.

“Everyone’s in a different headspace, but you have to be able to adapt and be the person that they need in that moment. Meeting them where they’re at, try to feel what they’re feeling, understand what they’re going through, then figure out how best to support them,” Joy said.

“I believe the impact that I can have on my patients and their families’ compounds, ultimately making a difference and impacting the greater good.”

Emma Joy in front of "Prentice Women's Hospital"

Life in Nursing School

During her time at TCU, Joy said she had a very well-rounded community and got to know people from all walks of life. As a nursing student, she participated in ethics symposiums. In these events, she met with students from different health-related majors and discussed ethical challenges. They collaborated and talked about how they would approach them and determined the right thing to do.

“It was very interesting to hear the different points of view from students in various health areas,” said Joy.

Harris College has a strong sense of community where students in each class become a support system for each other.

“I think that’s what makes us such a strong group of people,” Joy said. “It’s something that you see reflected when you move into the professional setting. You have that same bond and become a support system for one another.”

Nursing school is challenging, it’s supposed to be that way. A nurse must be independent in exercising clinical judgment and in applying nursing processes to a variety of problems and situations.

“TCU not only has a top-of-the-line nursing school that’s going to teach you everything that you need to know, but it also equips you with the confidence. When you walk into a room, you know you can take care of your patients, and their families know that their child is getting the best possible care,” Joy said.

Joy shared the challenges that she faced as a nursing student are some that she still sees in her role today.

“You have to balance the emotional weight that you’re carrying as a nurse, and I think that you get a taste of that in nursing school,” she recalls. “Professors in Harris College did a good job of exposing us to difficult situations and not having us shy away from them because they knew we would see them again in the hospitals.”

A Different Kind of Weight

Joy explains that grief as a health care worker is a weird concept to grasp.

“You must be a professional and hold your composure, but when you care so deeply about your patient and things happen that cause you to grieve, it’s difficult to find that balance,” Joy said.

She says it’s something one can’t learn from a book and professors can’t truly teach one how to grieve, but every nurse will experience it at some point.

“It’s important to have people around you who can help walk you through it when it happens.”

Joy recalls witnessing a heartbreaking situation during a clinical rotation where she learned that she was capable of handling those situations.

“You don’t know until you’re going through it, but all of my professors and instructors in Harris College knew what was going on,” Joy explains. “They were there to support me. Now, in my career, when these things happen, I have a band of nurses behind me and they’re all there to support and help me through.”