Even superheroes stumble. It’s in getting back up that their powers shine brightest.
Kash Calderón, or Spider-Man to many pediatric patients at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan, lives these truths. He failed the NCLEX his first three tries, accepted full responsibility for it, and decided to turn his disappointment into a positive for others. He has addressed the episode openly on his TikTok channel (@mursekash is his handle there as well as on Instagram), helping a surprising number of followers—new nursing grads themselves—put any stigma or embarrassment behind. I messed up: But look at me now!
Now is … pretty neat. Calderón is a pediatric cardiac and neuro nurse at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. He adores the job. It’s one he’s kind of been in training for. As a teen, Calderón began volunteering with Charna’s Kids’ Club, a free recreational program designed for school-age children 5 and older whose siblings are patients at New York-Presbyterian. During Summer Sizzle, an arts and crafts sibling-bonding event, Calderón’s Spider-Man alter ego first came to life.
A New York City kid himself (Queens born), he hoped to one day get back to New York-Pres as a nurse, but he doubted himself: “New York City is a tough market.” Then a friend, similarly qualified but no more than that, landed a nursing job in Manhattan, and Calderón swung into action. He credits the MSN (Entry into Nursing) program, and particularly its ability to get students into clinical placements even during COVID, with helping him hit the ground running. “It gave me a leg up. I was ready.”
Kash Calderón as Spider-Man
Like his masked hero, Calderón will have challenges and very likely more stumbles as he builds his nursing career. “The reality of this job is that these are really sick kids, waiting for a new heart, or they have a new heart and are fighting rejection, they have congenital heart defects, or they’re suffering from serious neurological disorders like epilepsy.”
Some will not win their battles. He watched a young patient skip out of the hospital one day after discharge, all smiles and hope, with Calderón shooting imaginary webs toward him as Spider-Man. A few days later, Calderón got the news that the boy had died at home. “I think I understand now when people say, ‘Maybe you should sit down before I tell you this.’ It made me dizzy.”
Calderón cites mindfulness, gratitude, joy, and a good long run as ways “to ground myself.” And he’s making himself a fixture in the community, serving as a friendly neighborhood translator between caregivers and worried parents from the largely Hispanic community of Washington Heights.
Still, for nurses, compartmentalization is a superpower gained only over time. The costume can’t protect Calderón. But the joy it brings to his patients (and colleagues) is another key part of his self-care plan. “When our best is not good enough, it’s hard not to carry that weight. When providing the best quality nursing care I can, I stay mentally grounded by remembering why I fell in love with the profession to begin with. My purpose is to make my patients feel like themselves again through nursing clinical practice and bedside manner.” — Steve St. Angelo
Click here to learn more about the programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
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