Pete Ryan
What nursing means to me

To me, nursing is a beautiful mosaic of art, science and intent. As nurses, we strive to find the harmony between mental, physical and spiritual health for our clients. We become a trusted member of their decision-making team, often in the most difficult situations. We show empathy and compassion in every situation, while also adapting to the specific circumstances of our clients. We do this because each client becomes a part of our family and their story impacts the way we see their “bigger picture” of health. 

Nursing has always held a special place in my heart. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of two, and was no stranger to the hospital setting. What I remember most about my hospital experiences in those early days is the way the nurses made me feel safe and welcome, while also empowering my family to embrace the change that was happening in our lives. 

When I came out of high school, I did construction. I had friends in nursing, and I found myself wanting to do their homework more than my own. I realized that nursing was calling me, and it was where I needed to be. I learned quickly that it can be physically and emotionally draining, but the opportunity to take even a little bit of the burden off of others, so they can heal and grow, makes this career feel like a privilege. 

At Emily’s House in Toronto, we offer respite and end-of-life care to the pediatric population and their loved ones. It was here that I met a young boy who changed my perspective on palliative care and the final steps in life. He reminded me of myself when I was around that age, and we even looked similar. The way he took in everyone’s love and reflected it back tenfold was truly inspiring. 

He acted like he was the nurse, caring for others and showing compassion in every situation. He was truly a good soul and lived every minute of his short life with such a gentle and caring energy that lit up every room. His strength and generosity reminded me that nursing is so much more than just procedures and medications. It’s ensuring your patients have the space to experience love, passion and happiness in the face of uncertainty. It’s removing the stress of planning for and managing the details of dying so families can feel peace and be there for their child. 

Working in pediatric palliative care is not for everyone. But for me, it has reinspired my passion for nursing. The strength, dedication and knowledge I have seen in others doing this work inspires me every day. Each family that passes through Emily’s House is safe and welcome with the same warmth I felt when I was receiving care as a child. We celebrate wins and grieve our losses together in a way that provides comfort, dignity and peace. Going above and beyond is the norm at Emily’s House and I feel blessed to be part of such a vital program for families to find a home away from home.

This is why I see nursing as a mosaic. Distinctive, little pieces of science and intent coming together to make a beautiful piece of art.

Fall 2023
Publish date

Julian Semczyszyn

Julian Semczyszyn

Julian Semczyszyn is an RN at Emily’s House Children’s Hospice. He is Best Practice Spotlight Organization® (BPSO®) lead for the 10-bed facility in Toronto that joined the BPSO program in 2021.