Asking, searching, knocking. Derek Hadinger has spent a great deal of time doing all three of these on his journey to becoming a nurse. Asking for guidance, searching for answers, knocking on the doors of opportunity. He didn’t take the typical route to become a nurse, but then again, Derek is no typical nurse.

Derek grew up in Central Ohio as a talented artist and musician. When it came time to embark on a career path after high school, he received scholarships to attend college for art, but quickly realized that in being trained a certain way, he’d feel constrained rather than free to express himself. So instead of enrolling in school, he decided to exhibit his artwork in galleries and play live improvisational jazz music as a way to continue his love of learning and connecting with people. While he loved sharing his art and music creatively with others, he didn’t feel fulfilled.

Being a man of great faith, Derek felt gentle nudges during this time of uncertainty that led him to believe that God was calling him to be a nurse. His mother was a nurse and his brother worked transport in a hospital, which laid a foundation for him, but it was in prayer that Derek truly found his way. “Every time I prayed about it, I felt pushed in this direction,” he recalled.

So he sold almost all of his material possessions and worked as a bicycle messenger while going to school to fulfill his prerequisite requirements. Money was very tight, but he poured all that he had, financially and personally, into starting his nursing education at Mount Carmel College of Nursing. There were times he was unsure if he’d be able to pay rent, but his passion and faith pushed him forward.

When it came time to enroll in his senior-year classes, Derek had exhausted his financial resources and was left with almost nowhere to turn. With just one year left, he had come so far, but needed additional financial assistance in order to receive his degree and become a nurse. By God’s grace, as Derek puts it, he applied for and received two scholarships that enabled him to graduate. One of them was the Compassion Scholarship and the other, the Trinity Scholarship.

As part of the Compassion Scholarship application, Derek wrote about a woman he encountered during one of his rotations who, having had polio as a child and cerebral palsy as an adult among other challenges, was distraught and distressed. By connecting with the patient and finding that she had a love of art and music, they began sharing poetry, having conversations about art, even singing Amazing Grace together.

Derek was a compassionate presence for her, and in turn he gained much more than he could ever have imagined. With tears in his eyes Derek said, “We have built such a friendship, I feel like she’s my family. As a nurse, you’re in a situation to help someone, often when they’re at their most vulnerable, and they end up changing your life because they’re encouraging you. Believing in you. Thanking you. It’s incredibly humbling and has taught me the true importance of being a holy presence for someone else.”

Nursing for Derek has been, and continues to be, a spiritual journey — one that reminds him of Christ’s message, of His example of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and comforting those in need. One that compels, motivates and excites him “to work in an environment at maximum capacity and pull from all avenues of my prior learning in order to do so.” His improvisational music background gave him the understanding that nothing is ever the same; everything changes. “To be able to use those skills and apply them to nursing…it’s a perfect combination,” he added. “Art and science are naturally connected; two sides of the same coin.”

“If you find a job you’re passionate about, and you’re able to use your body, mind and spirit to make a positive impact, that’s where you should be,” Derek said. “I couldn’t work doing anything else in life with this amount of energy and passion. And that’s why I want to be a nurse here, at Mount Carmel.”

On July 27, 2015, his 43rd birthday, Derek began his nursing career at Mount Carmel West, just a short walk from where he spent so much time preparing to be a nurse at Mount Carmel College of Nursing.

Derek is a special person pursuing his life’s calling. Scholarships — made possible through private donor support — helped him realize his calling to impact the lives of others, one patient at a time.

This article was originally published in the 2015 Annual Report to the Community.