Nurses take center stage at Penn Story Slam

Registered nurse Jill Distefano speaks at a University of Pennsylvania Story Slam (Jad Sleiman/WHYY)

Registered nurse Jill Distefano speaks at a University of Pennsylvania Story Slam (Jad Sleiman/WHYY)

Nurses gathered at the University of Pennsylvania’s Rotunda to share stories from their careers in health care. They came from all corners of the profession: an air base in Afghanistan, movie sets, and transplant clinics.

The two-hour event Wednesday night was organized by the university’s nursing school and First Person Arts, a nonprofit storytelling organization.

Marion Leary is innovation director at the Penn nursing school. She said she wanted the audience to walk away with a wider view of what nursing can be.

“Yes, nursing is clinical and it’s bedside, but it’s so much more than that. There’s research, there’s nurses who are historians, innovators, entrepreneurs, and nurses who do law and history. It runs the gamut,” she said. “I wanted it to be able to give these nurses a platform to amplify nursing in a way that doesn’t generally happen.”

The best storytellers won cash prizes at the end of the night. For the rest, it was a rare chance to enjoy the spotlight.

Registered nurse Jill Distefano works at a heart and vascular center. She stood up and told the story of her own father’s heart transplant.

“It was terrifying at first. I’ve never done this before, but it felt good to tell it. I mean, my parents were in the audience,” she said. “My dad, who really should not be here right now, is alive, and it just speaks volumes to what medicine can do and all the nurses and physicians that took care of him.”

Brianna Morgan is a nurse practitioner at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and a doctoral student.

“There’s tons of nurses, but often our voices aren’t heard quite as much as other health-care providers,” she said. “So for me, this felt like such a great opportunity to be able to tell the story, stories that nurses have to tell. I’m on a bigger stage.”

A video of the full event with all the speakers will be posted on the nursing school’s website late next week.

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