Devon G Allen
June 2023
Devon G
Pediatric ICU
UVA Health
United States




It takes a very special person to be able to function at max mental clarity while maintaining whole-hearted, full-human empathy and love. Devon is one of those special people.
I'm writing this nomination on behalf of all the nurses that have been on shift for the past few nights working alongside the nominee, Devon. We've all collectively agreed that Devon deserves recognition for her extraordinary compassion and the ways in which she has gone far above and beyond the call of duty. Devon has worked the past several nights assigned to a very emotionally difficult case in which conversations have been initiated to change the course of care toward the end of life. This was a newborn with unexpected complications where the parents had dreamed, arranged, and planned for a full future. We in the Pediatric ICU have the honor of taking care of these young lives and unfortunately aren't novices in redirecting to set these angels free. There are practices that have become fairly standard in our unit which include creating a set of memorial items for the family to take home. Things such as hand molds, footprints, heart rhythm strips in glass jars, and "butterfly blankets" are typical gifts given to these families.

As one could imagine, it can be difficult to witness patients and families suffer and experience what is likely the deepest sadness and most tragic event of their life. Being a PICU nurse can often mean walking a tightrope of trying to balance your compassion and empathy with mental toughness and compartmentalizing enough to perform the job. Some might argue that having too much compassion or empathy is a recipe for disaster in a place like this. Where logic and mental clarity are paramount, emotions can become hazardous to the ability to function as a nurse. On the flip side, our empathy and compassion are what drives us to deliver the best care possible. It takes a very special person to be able to function at max mental clarity while maintaining whole-hearted, full-human empathy and love.

Devon is one of those special people.

In the past several shifts we have witnessed her develop a connection with this family without hesitation. Fear of getting "too close" when anticipating a loss can keep many of us emotionally distant, but Devon dove right in with an open heart and learned all she could about this family and what their child has meant to them. She learned that the child was named after a place from a popular fantasy series, of which she also happens to be a huge fan. She took it upon herself to scrounge up craft supplies and anyone with free time to begin decorating a memory box. This box was dedicated to the patient with homage to the book series and was riddled with meaningful references and imagery. Devon herself painted landscapes and scenes from the story on each side of the box and included quotes from the author in hopes of offering comfort to these parents through their coming waves of grief.

The finished product was filled with our typical memorial items and delivered to the family after Devon had left and completed her stretch of shifts. She wasn't able to witness how moved and deeply appreciative these parents were. Even fellow staff members were moved to tears at the sight of the box. It is something that I personally feel enormously grateful to have been a small part of and I will forever be in awe of Devon's ability to care so deeply and gracefully in such difficult moments.

Devon provided something for this family to come to and hold where they can remember and experience their love for their child. Something to look at, touch and move through the heavy grief that comes from loss after loving in its deepest form.

When looking back at the darkest moment in their life, these parents will remember the warmth of Devon's smile and the comfort that her energy brought to the room. When these parents return home empty-handed, it's our hope that the memorial items can somehow at least marginally fill this void and aid their healing.

It is tough being a PICU nurse... it's even tougher being a PICU parent. We are constantly humbled and inspired by one another in this place. We all, Devon's coworkers, can confidently say that she is a human that consistently provides some of that inspiration. To be the best nurses we can be, to provide the best care, to offer comfort, to aid in healing.