Nurse Practitioner Shares Why He Loves His Job at Shepherd Center
John Morawski, MSN, treats patients in Shepherd Center's Spinal Cord Injury Program.
John Morawski, MSN, started working at Shepherd Center in 1999 as a registered nurse. He has also served as a nurse educator and, currently, as a nurse practitioner, working in tandem with Anna Elmers, M.D., in the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Programs.
Q: What about nursing really hooked you?
A: What I like – especially here at Shepherd Center – is that you really get invested with the patients. You have a chance to help them carry over what they learn in therapy and apply it to their daily routine. You see people through a very difficult time in their lives, and that’s a big honor. You get to know people in a real way.
Q: What was your first impression of Shepherd Center?
A: I immediately thought, ‘Wow, there’s just so much hope here.’ After going through nursing school and reading textbooks and learning about severe injuries, you think it would be such a difficult field to work in. But there was no gloom when I walked into Shepherd Center. They were actually planning a Thanksgiving party for patients. Teenagers were goofing off in the hallways. I thought, ‘I want to work where patients are encouraged to be themselves while they’re recovering.’ It was a very unique culture to walk into.
Q: What is one of the most important things you’ve learned on the job?
A: When patients have a severe injury, in reality, there are a lot of things they’re recovering from, and sometimes you need to address the things that don’t seem like the biggest concerns. One of my favorite examples is a young guy who had a spinal cord injury, broken bones, internal issues – and a broken pinky. That pinkie injury obviously seems minor in scope, but for him it was a really big deal. Because he loved playing guitar and, as a person with paraplegia, playing guitar was something he could do and feel like himself again. So we made the decision to get his pinky fixed quickly so that playing guitar could be part of his rehabilitation from the start.
Q: What’s your biggest goal with a new patient?
A: To find some kind of common connection or interest. It’s so important for patients to connect to their strengths and passions again. People can start to feel defined by their injury. I want them to reconnect with their strengths and their passions so that they say, “I do this” or “I’m involved in that. Yeah, this is who I am.”
St. Joseph’s College of Nursing (Associate Degree in Nursing)
Kennesaw State University (Bachelor of Science in Nursing; Master of Science in Nursing)
- Morawski and his wife, Deanna, have three boys: Evan, 8; Luke, 6; Joshua, 5 months.
- On coaching his sons’ sports teams: “A lot of meltdowns on a 6-year-old’s basketball team. My coaching consists of keeping them emotionally stable.”
- A grill master, Morawski says his kids call his best dish, “‘Daddy’s Special Chicken.’ I don’t want to brag, but they say it’s pretty good.”
- Atlanta celebrity connection: His first son was born on the same day as Mei Lan, the first panda cub born at the Atlanta Zoo.
- How does he think others describe him at work? “Well, he tries really hard.’” Sense of humor? Check.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.