Name: Justin Witt
Position: Nursing Student at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and hired Student Nurse at University of Maryland Medical Center, MICU

Before discovering his passion for patient care, Justin spent four years in the U.S. Army as a West Point cadet. There he became a conscientious objector to the purpose of his duty as a future artillery officer, and he was forced to leave West Point nine days before graduating with his class. Relearning how to operate as a civilian allowed him to recalibrate how he values life and transform his moral suffering into moral resilience. Justin discovered the kind of difference he wants to make in others’ lives through that difficult transition, and now nursing provides an unquestionable purpose for his life and future. He wrote this poem to reflect his commitment to the profession and moral understanding of what makes being a nurse so special.

How to Orient the Moral Compass of Nursing

How can we orient our moral compass in the right direction?
Actively addressing challenges that demand proper intervention.
Of course we do our best to strive for connection,
But sometimes helping means facing rejection.

Considering we may be wrong comes before knowing that we’re actually right,
Because working together forces compromise, and the discipline not to fight.

However, if you see a problem, kindly make it known!
Or that frustration will fester, and resentment will be sown
Into the seeds of distrust that cause harm when they’re grown.
We can’t justify silence by not stepping on toes.
This uniform requires action; it’s obviously not for show.

For patients it’s a symbol of hope, healing, and humanity.
In the mirror it’s a reflection of our character and integrity.

Not forgetting that integrity takes courage to call people out,
Admit our own mistakes, and sometimes whisper, sometimes shout.
Showing remorse, and offering grace
Will always go farther than just saving face.

We chose this role
To serve all people, regardless of their story,
While the human closeness takes a toll,
We honor their lives with no expectation of glory.

We stand to reconcile equality with equity, and homogeneity with diversity,
Not by putting anyone down, but by lifting everyone up,
By virtue of our purpose, and the obligation of our scrubs.

This humble work only starts with competence,
But how we make people feel creates a legacy of excellence.

When we show up to serve, we put biases aside.
We don’t make assumptions, and we take things in stride.
After all, just listening can be enough to change a life.

Even when we’re spent and it feels like just an act,
We always show respect, recognizing our impact
On those who we don’t notice, or on those we think don’t care,
Or on those who just annoy us and make us want to swear.

It’s a calling that keeps us accountable through the most demanding and thankless hours
Because this privilege of service holds truly remarkable power.

Our impact touches everyone through how we represent
The hope for getting better, which is a gift divinely sent.
Getting to make that difference will make our hearts content,
And when our time is finally through, we’ll know it was time well spent.

Since trust, kindness, and caring characterize the profession,
We refuse to make concessions that would risk health progression.
So how can we orient our moral compass in the right direction?
We can remember these truths and guard them with protection.



Submit your story of resilience in writing or by video by addressing the following:

  • If video is available, please send .mp4 or .mov files to [email protected].
  • If in writing, no more than 400 words or if video no more than 5 minutes
  1. Briefly describe what happened/your situation where your resilience was needed.
  2. In what ways did your resilience shine through?
  3. What kept you resilient during this time? (E.g., Activities such as meditation, connecting with your values, and taking a break)
  4. How will you remember this in the future?