The frail, ailing man spoke no English, and Philip Bagnoli spoke no Hindi. But that didn’t matter in the least as the two sat together, hands grasped, amid the hustle and bustle of the ICU at Holy Family Hospital, a small missionary medical center in New Delhi, India.
“He was alone and just wanted me to sit with him,” says Bagnoli, a nursing major from Grinnell, Iowa, who served a two-month internship at the hospital in the summer of 2018. “I knew that he was scared, and I knew that I could comfort him.”
While at Holy Family Hospital, working under staff nurses’ supervision, Bagnoli also dispensed medication, inserted IVs, initiated tube feedings, suctioned tracheostomies, and provided comfort to many other patients in need of compassionate care. “ICU nursing is intense, but it’s also rewarding to be a part of something so scary for others and help make their experience as positive as possible,” he says. “I feel like I can really make an impact as an ICU nurse—it’s work I feel called to do.”
Bagnoli felt that call from the moment he entered the Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, where, as a sophomore, he spent a day shadowing ER nurses. “I really liked the pace and flow of the ER, and knew I could do well in an environment where I had to think critically on my feet,” he says. Serving his senior capstone in surgical trauma ICU at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, solidified Bagnoli’s decision to pursue critical-care nursing as a career: “It’s work I can see myself doing for quite a long time,” he says.
Bagnoli felt just as sure about his decision to enroll at Luther, made during his first campus visit. “The sense of community was immediately apparent to me,” he says. “I knew I could get a good education at many colleges, but I was looking for a community where I felt like I could be my best version of myself and explore parts of me that I had not yet explored.”
The college’s setting along the banks of the Upper Iowa River and the bluffs of the Driftless Region—topography that reminded him of his childhood in Berea, Kentucky—was a very welcome bonus. An avid outdoorsman, Bagnoli frequently ventured outside when he wasn’t taking classes, preparing for work as a lab assistant, or leading tours of campus for prospective students. “I love backpacking and day hiking, camping and canoeing, mountain biking and running—really just about anything that will get me outside,” he says. This spring, Bagnoli even trained for his first marathon on Decorah’s Trout Run Trail.
The outdoors, in fact, played a key part in his decision to move to Tacoma, Washington, this August to work as a nurse in the neuro/trauma ICU at Tacoma General Hospital while exploring Mount Rainier and other natural draws of the Puget Sound region. While his address may change in the years ahead, Bagnoli knows he is in nursing for the long haul. “The great thing about nursing is that there are so many options and so many tracks one can follow. I like to keep life interesting,” he says, “and with nursing, that is easy to do.”