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Three devoted nurses share why their career inspires them every single day

Those who are drawn to nursing have a desire to inspire, innovate and influence.
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National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on the 12th in recognition of Florence Nightingale's birthday (May 12, 1820). Known as the founder of modern nursing, she was famous for being the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ who organized the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.

“For the sick it is important to have the best.” – Florence Nightingale 

The theme for 2018 is; Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence. In honor of National Nurses Week, three devoted nurses in our community share why their career inspires them every day.

Kristin Davis Knipp, LPN

Kristin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age nine and had ileostomy surgery in June 1991. She received her nursing degree at Willoughby Eastlake School of Practical Nursing and specializes in Gastroenterology and Inflammatory Bowel Disease at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Digestive Disease Institute.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

“Through my 33 years of living with Crohn’s disease and an ostomy, it has always been nurses who made the greatest impact on my care. From the pediatric nurses took care of me while I was hospitalized for so much of my youth, to the wound ostomy nurses who taught me the skills I needed to live with an ileostomy—all have inspired me to take my experience and use it for the good of other patients. Nurses are agents of healing, both physically and emotionally.”

Kristin, aka the Gutless Wonder Woman, has spent the past two decades advocating for patients with inflammatory bowel disease and ostomies. She previously worked for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and served as past-President of the United Ostomy Associations of America. Kristin has been a volunteer at Youth Rally as a camp counselor and nurse for 22 years.

Just for fun: “I love anything to do with water or the beach. I love tea and collect tea sets and love to host parties. I love country music and have quite the boot collection!”

Sarah Vasilakos, BSN, RN

Sarah was ill at birth with onset vomiting the first day and did not pass meconium (baby’s first bowel movement). Doctors did a series of motility testing to rule out every digestive disorder before diagnosing Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction (CIP). Her original ileostomy surgery was performed at just 3-weeks-old in May 1991 and was later made permanent when she turned nine in July 2000.

She received her nursing degree and bachelor's degree in psychology from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Sarah works in the level 1 trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital where she handles the aftermath of motor vehicle accidents, stabbings, suicide attempts, gunshot wounds, falls, and serious chronic medical issues.

What innovative idea led to your career in nursing?

“Since I was a teenager I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field—helping people through medical challenges just like I’ve had for most of my life. At age 16, I became a certified hospital visitor with my local ostomy support group. One of the best feelings in the world is bringing hope to someone who did not have any through my own experience and struggles. At first, I was thinking of becoming a doctor. Then I thought I’d use my psych degree to be a patient advocate at a hospital, but in the back of my mind something told me that my true calling was in nursing. Shortly after my very first clinical rotation in nursing school during the Fall of 2016, I knew I had found my dream career.”

Sarah is still involved with her local ostomy support group as a certified hospital visitor and also volunteers at a rescue shelter helping animals get adopted.

Just for fun: “In my free time I love to figure skate. I used to compete as a teen and I still make time to train—just for my own personal goal. I also like horseback riding a few times a year, kayaking, white water rafting, snorkeling, hiking, and snowboarding (anything adventurous outdoors) when I have free time.”

Maggie Baldwin, RN, BSN

Maggie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 11-years-old and had ileostomy surgery in October 2009 at age 16. She earned her nursing degree from Salisbury University and works as a Pediatric GI nurse at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on the GI/Endocrine/Metabolic floor—often working with kids who have an ostomy.

Who had the most influence on your nursing career?

“My passion for nursing comes from being around my own incredible nurses. Before and after ostomy surgery they were always there for me—encouraging me to live life to the fullest. They made me feel normal. I was actually a patient on the exact same floor I now work on! I love telling that story to my patients.”

Eight years ago, Maggie started a YouTube channel called Let's Talk IBD to share her experience living with Crohn's and an ostomy. She also manages the Patient Champion program at 11 health and last year became involved with a foundation called Cure for IBD that raises funds for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis research.

Just for fun: “I live with my fiancé Zak and our four dogs on a small farm in Pennsylvania. We spend a lot of time caring for animals and are trying our hands at gardening.”

To our beloved nurses everywhere, thanks for all you do. The dedication and compassion you deliver on a daily basis is a universal gift to us all. Happy Nurses Week!