Patient experience sparks nursing career: A journey of healing, caregiving

February 28, 2024
Nurse leans over to talk with a patient who is sitting up in an adjustable bed.
Nurse Jesse Dasinger talks to Eileen Hyleman after listening to her breathing in her hospital room at Ashley River Tower. Photo by Sarah Pack

Up until age 10, Charleston-born Jesse Dasinger’s life was typical for a 5th grader. But one day in the fall of 2010, everything changed. A trip to the emergency room, and later a confirmed cancer diagnosis at MUSC, unveiled Dasinger had T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of leukemia that occurs when too many of the body’s T-cells are produced in the bone marrow. 

Immediately, he was connected with the best care from pediatric oncology specialists Jennifer Jaroscak, M.D., Michelle Hudspeth, M.D., and Jackie Kraveka, D.O., and the teams of nurses and others who cared for him. Dasinger’s leukemia did not respond to standard treatments and required a novel chemotherapy regimen followed by an intensive cord blood transplant in 2011. 

The combination of receiving quality patient care, coupled with the compassionate support of his parents, Judy and Willie Dasinger, and family and friends, helped Dasinger not only to beat his cancer, but it inspired him to pursue a career in nursing at MUSC.

“I’ve always wanted to work a job that served others. As a 10-year-old staying for months in the MUSC Children’s Hospital, I saw the day-to-day interaction between the clinical teams — the doctors, nurses and staff. But it was the nurses who were the one constant that were with me and my parents as I experienced the tough and difficult moments to the good and happy times. They were my caregivers, my advocates, my cheerleaders and my bedside companions that were important to me at that time, and I’d never forget it.”

And he didn’t.

Child who is a hospital patient sits between a man and a woman.  
Dasinger, center, during a childhood hospital visit with his parents, Willie and Julie. Photo provided

Going through high school, he realized he wanted a job in medicine and specifically nursing.

“I wanted patients that I help to experience those same good feelings that I experienced. I felt I was treated so well as a patient that I wanted to ‘give back’ to the community in the same way I was treated. This is why I wanted to be a nurse,” he explained. 

In February of 2021, he took a job as a patient care technician (PCT) working on 5East in the Cardiac Acute Care Unit of MUSC’s Ashley River Tower to learn more about nursing and determine if it was something he wanted to do.

The 5East team manages recovering heart patients, transplant patients, vascular and other specialty patients. What he learned and who he worked with inspired him even further.

“What I love is that the 5East nurses are a team and work together to do an amazing job with patients every day. That experience helped me realize this is what I want; this is what I’ll be doing,” Dasinger said.

About a year later, he was accepted into nursing school at ECPI, and just like many other students balancing work and training during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dasinger navigated through challenging situations that helped him to recognize how empowering it was to work in a hospital, especially at such a critical time. 

Person in eyeglasses, scrubs and a vest with a stethoscope writes while talking to another person who is wearing a mask. 
Dasinger speaks to a co-worker, nurse Naomi Mendenhall, during shift change at Ashley River Tower. Photo by Sarah Pack

“To me, patients were coming to MUSC from all over the state for help during their sickest, most vulnerable time in their lives, and we’re here to help them. It was an amazing example of humanity at its best!”

He also witnessed many challenges faced by his fellow care team members. “There were tough days, too, but people I worked with were still great and positive. They still inspired me to move forward to study nursing. They just cared so much for the patients,” Dasinger said.

Last November, he graduated from nursing school and was able to return to MUSC. He eventually rejoined the 5East team as a full-time nurse. He loves working with his team and with patients. His short-term goal is to further his education with a master’s degree in nursing education and become a clinical instructor at MUSC’s College of Nursing.

Nurse manager Rachel Jakins, R.N., couldn’t be more pleased with Dasinger and all he brings to the 5East team. 

“Jesse is a compassionate and calming force on the unit. I receive so many compliments during my leader rounds about Jesse’s bedside manner and how he always makes each patient feel important, heard and that he genuinely cares about their well-being. He’s a wonderful addition to our staff, as we all work so well together. We truly are a family, and everyone supports one another,” said Jakins. 

Person wearing eyeglasses and blue scrubs smiles while looking to the side. 
Dasinger is happy to be able to help patients have as good an experience as possible. Photo by Sarah Pack

Hudspeth, who was among the MUSC pediatric specialists who treated Dasinger 13 years ago, still keeps in touch with her former patient-turned nurse.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to see Jesse join the medical profession. He will be an outstanding nurse. He represents the very best of what we strive for every day to accomplish in pediatric oncology — to cure patients and allow them to return to a normal life where they can fulfill their dreams and help others,” she said. 

From a young boy who battled leukemia during months spent in the MUSC Children's Hospital to a dedicated nurse who provides invaluable support to his patients, this nurse's incredible journey has come full circle, bringing immense comfort to those under his care. 

“I love MUSC. Nursing was part of my life every day for months and it drove me to do what I wanted to do then, and what I am today,” he said.

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