Joseph Hardiman, 45, of Atlantic City, started out wanting to be a cop like his father, who retired from the Atlantic City Police Department. “Every boy wants to follow in his father’s footsteps,” he said. “I was the first born and I liked what he did.” But Hardiman’s father warned him against entering law enforcement because of his personality as a “people person” and the dangers inherent to the job. Both parents — Hardiman’s stepmother has been a nurse for 43 years — pushed Hardiman to be a nurse, and he enrolled at Atlantic Cape Community College. Since 1991, he has worked in AtlantiCare’s Center for Childbirth.

Joe Krafft, 60, of Cape May Court House, began his career in business before entering nursing school in 1981. Krafft had dated nurses who advised him not to enter the profession because of the long hours and emotional stress, but he needed a change. “I got tired of selling things and wanted to do something people really wanted, rather than selling them some garbage,” he said. Nursing took him out to San Francisco at the start of the AIDS epidemic and, eventually, back to Cape Regional Medical Center.

Dwight McBee, 37, of Barnegat Township, grew up caring for a sister who suffered from sickle cell anemia. In 1999, while McBee was working for a cable TV company, his sister suffered a severe attack that proved fatal. McBee’s family got a call on Thanksgiving Day that she was “unresponsive” — medical shorthand that meant that medical staff were working to revive her. Ultimately, their efforts proved unsuccessful, but it changed McBee’s career outlook. “I saw a really bad outcome and wanted to be on the side of helping people get well,” he said.

Joe Ramos, 41, of Egg Harbor City, began working as a medical technician directly out of high school, first for a nursing home and then at AtlantiCare. “I worked in every department,” he said. “Slowly, but surely, I realized that was the field I needed to be in.” Observing the work of other nurses in action convinced him to pursue a nursing degree through the hospital’s tuition reimbursement program six years ago. The job allows him to support his family while helping people.

Danny Schulingkamp, 33, of Egg Harbor Township, grew up in a house where both parents were nurses, his father a nurse anesthetist and his mother an RN. As a kid, Schulingkamp’s parents would discuss things he didn’t understand at the dinner table. “If you’d ask, they’d realize what they were saying and say, ‘oh, don’t worry about that’,” he said. Although he had several other interests — including being a park ranger — he followed his parents into nursing as a mobile intensive care nurse, caring for patients as they are transported via ambulance. He also works on helicopters for MidAtlantic MedEvac.

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