Note: This post contains mention of domestic violence, rape, and neonatal death.
It’s not hard to find yourself stuck in a cycle of doomscrolling when so many stories in the news today revolve around broken systems and tragedies, leaving you demoralized and dejected. And that makes it easy to overlook the impact of the people working tirelessly to make a difference on an individual scale — whether they’re a doctor caring for a high-risk patient, a lawyer defending the falsely accused, or a social worker helping to make a kid’s Christmas.
So, u/Balistoides, after pointing out that we often hear a lot of worst-day stories, decided to ask people with emotionally difficult jobs, such as first responders, healthcare professionals, and more, “What was your BEST day on the job?” In response, people shared the heartwarming experiences that they’ve had and hold onto when their (already high-stress) work gets hard:
“Very early in my career as a criminal defense attorney, I had a Black college student charged with a shooting. It was getting a lot of media statewide since one person involved was a professional athlete. After investigating, I became convinced he was innocent and that the actual shooter was one of the state’s primary witnesses. I’d only had a few jury trials at that point, and all were guilty defendants who refused to plead out. I didn’t have a ton of faith in a jury or my own ability, but I worked my ass off in preparation. Once we started trial, I realized I was knocking down every piece of evidence the state presented. I was pumped with adrenaline and growing confidence. I tore up their star witness (who I thought was the shooter), and one juror actually laughed at him in disbelief of his testimony. I gave a 30-minute closing argument without even looking at my notes, and the jury nodded along. After 20 minutes, they came back with a not guilty verdict.”
“Paramedic here. My best ever job was on a hot summer day in Australia. We were called to an 11-year-old boy who had drowned in his family pool. I was halfway through a foot-long meatball sub when it happened, and I damn near shat myself. We were about five minutes away, and when we arrived, the boy’s mother was providing CPR while his 8-year-old twin sisters watched, horrified. I check the carotid pulse (non-existent) and started to take over on compressions. My partner started to unpack the defib pads while our student toweled the kid off. The defib came back showing ventricular tachycardia (one of the only two shockable rhythms), so we hit him with the lightning, and he instantly went back into a sinus rhythm (normal heart rhythm). The kid then began to splutter, so we rolled in him into the recovery position to help him get the water out of his lungs. In such a high-octane situation, it honestly felt so good to be able to successfully revive somebody.”
“I still think about that job any time that I wonder why I’m in this profession.” —u/[deleted]
“Psychologist here. I did my year-long internship at a university counseling center. While we normally only saw clients for 8–12 sessions, we were allowed to have one longer-term client to give us more experience. Mine ended up being this wonderful young woman who was deeply depressed. She was an identical twin. Sessions were slow going at first, and there were a lot of tears. She worked through a lot and was much better by the end of our 10 months together. My supervisor and I talked about her frequently, and she watched tapes of our sessions. The next year, I was on my post-doc, and I got a call from my former supervisor who’d just started seeing my client’s twin in private practice. The mother of the two, not knowing who my supervisor was, started talking to her about how her other daughter had gone to therapy and how her therapist had changed her life. My supervisor called me to tell me this because, as she well knows, we don’t get to hear that very often.”
“I was a teacher in a low-income charter school — a recipe for disaster. The school was poorly run, we had to provide most supplies ourselves, and we had unreasonable and unrealistic expectations placed on us. I was teaching first grade. We had a rule that only one child could be out of the classroom at a time, no matter what. I had 30 kids. Eventually, one of my kids had a bathroom accident (I have to say, if I knew he had to go that badly, I’d have let him — rules be damned, but he didn’t give any indication it was an emergency). I got him a change of clothes and minimized his embarrassment as much as I could. His mom was furious. She came in the next day and spent 10 minutes screaming at me. A dean finally escorted her away, and I thought that’d be the end of it. It wasn’t. She stayed at the school the entire day and just…watched. She saw what the teachers were going through and had to deal with. She came at the end of the day and apologized.”
“I work physical rehab in a skilled nursing facility. I had a young, early-40s patient with a hereditary degenerative condition who had been in different hospitals and facilities for months. In addition to genuine pain and disability, she was being very self-limiting — unwilling to do pretty much anything for fear of it increasing her pain levels. Bit by bit, a coworker and I convinced her to first roll over, then sit, then stand, and then spend longer and longer periods out of bed. Finally, we got to the point where we were able to do a home visit, and you could see her remembering what it was like to be in her own space. That light of desire to go home was in her eyes, and she worked harder from that point on. Two weeks later, she was discharged. Helping her into the car and waving it out of the parking lot was the best feeling I’ve had so far in my career.”
“TL;DR: I was able to help someone go from bedridden inpatient to home in a wheelchair after months of painstaking work.” —u/HeadFullOfBrains
“I worked in the emergency unit of a rural hospital in a third-world country when two women arrived with more than 60% total body surface area burns after a gas canister in the school kitchen, where they volunteered, exploded. Both were fully conscious. I treated them aggressively and made arrangements for transfer to a hospital equipped to treat them. Given the prognosis, I was sad but not surprised to hear one woman passed away within hours. Since I hadn’t heard about the second woman, I assumed she died as well. For weeks, I had trouble adjusting to the idea that the last thing they heard was me saying, ‘Hi, I’m Dr. [Name]. You got very badly burnt. I gave you some strong pain stuff, but I’m worried about damage to your face, so I’m going to give you something to make you sleep and put a tube in your lungs to protect them, ok?’ Months later, I got a call: ‘There’s someone here that you absolutely want to see.’ It was the second woman.”
“When they came in, I’d given them morphine, fluids, and burn dressings and intubated both to protect their airways. However, the prognosis was extremely poor due to ongoing damage and associated complications. At that stage, I worked in a very fragmented system, so I didn’t know what had happened to the second woman after she was transferred.
She had been through hell — skin grafts, rehabilitation, depression — but against the odds, she had survived. She also immediately recognized me as the one who said, ‘I’m going to give you something to make you sleep,’ but she remembered it more favorably than I did. It was easily the happiest day of my entire career so far, and I’ve been practicing for give or take 11 years now.” —u/blueginpinktonic
“I was a case manager for mentally-ill adults. I knew things were tough for this lady, Z. We were both in our mid-20s. When I showed up for our meeting, she had a clear hand-shaped bruise on her face and bruises around her neck. She cried when she saw my face, reacting. Neighbors had called the police, who’d made him leave, but it was a ‘he said, she said.’ Z needed a clearer report to get to a shelter on an emergency basis. She was scared, but we went to the precinct. On the way, I bought her breakfast. Z started crying because it was hard for her to decide what she wanted as she was so unused to making even small choices. She then told me he’d come back after the police left that night and raped her. The desk officer initially said he couldn’t do anything because the report said it was purely verbal. I’m an angry crier, so I then burst into tears and told him to LOOK at the fucking HANDPRINT on her face and the bruises on her neck.”
“I used to work at an animal shelter, and, honestly, had a lot of good days to pair with the bad ones. One of the coolest things I can remember, however, was when a family came looking to adopt a cat. We had a cat that was having a tough time getting adopted, so we let him roam free in the shelter to schmooze with people. Well, this family encounters the cat, and they don’t just fall in love. No, they breathe a huge sigh of relief. Turns out, the shelter cat was their cat that had gone missing five years prior.”
“They instantly recognized him and immediately readopted him. It was a really neat twist of fate.” —u/Wubbalubbadubbitydo
“I was a dispatcher for a residential alarm company similar to ADT. I would call people when their alarm was tripped and ask if they were okay. One day, I received a signal from a residence from a glass break sensor on a window in the bathroom. When I called, the lady was laughing so hard she could barely give me her safety password. Turns out, she was cleaning her bathroom, and when she bent over, she farted so hard and loudly that it set off the sensor on the bathroom window.”
“I’m a physician. Years ago, I was a resident on obstetrics. On my first day, during my first hour, I watched a pregnant woman almost die and give birth to a baby boy who died shortly after. Due to complications, he’d required extensive resuscitation, ended up with severe brain damage, and was eventually taken off life support. The mother survived with no health consequences, but it was emotionally devastating. It was their third round of IVF. Multiple nurses agonized over whether they’d done something wrong. Two years later, I was on pediatrics in the same hospital, examining a prematurely-born infant who was a few months old. I noticed the mother had a tattoo of a boy’s name and date on her wrist. The date was the first day of my residency training.”
“I was a policeman in small town. One night in the early ’90s, I got a call to try and locate a woman who was on the heart transplant list. She wasn’t answering her phone or pager. It was the middle of a cold night in February, and I’d knocked on the door of every neighbor who lived in her cul-de-sac without success. Finally, the neighbor in the last house I checked told me that the woman had gone out of town to her mother’s. I was able to get a phone number and contact her there. She got a new heart that night.”
“I’m retired now and still see her on occasion. She always makes a big deal and hugs me. She’d forgotten her pager and didn’t go back to get it thinking, What are the chances they’ll call tonight?” u/Steveg27
“Nurse here. I was a student on a cardiac unit, and there was a lady waiting for surgery. She and her husband spoke little English, but their friend was there sometimes to help translate. The night before her surgery, her husband and friend left, and I helped her take a sanitizing shower to prep. My preceptor told me that her surgery was extremely risky and carried only a 20% chance of success. Neither of us were sure if she understood this fully, but she knew it was necessary and was scared. I kept thinking that it might be her last night on Earth and she was here all alone. That night, through broken communication, her last words to me were, ‘Thank you.’ She said we were so sweet and caring in a time when she was so afraid. I didn’t care whether I was allowed to or not, but I gave her a strong hug before I left that night. It was the eve of her surgery, and she was all alone with a regular hospital meal and little ability to communicate.”
“I work in a theater, and it can be stressful depending on they type of show and client. A few years ago, a youth group came in for a two-week run. Some of the kids act, some have technical roles, and some help with scenery and props. This time around, I was the lighting designer/operator. One of the kids who got assigned to help with lights was an 11-year-old with cochlear implants. His implants worked great, and he could have a regular conversation with anyone. The one thing that gave him trouble was the ClearCom headset — what the crew uses to talk to each other during the show. It was bulky and interfered with his implants. It also didn’t give him the best sound quality. During the course of our conversations. he’d mentioned that he could also take an AUX input into his sound processor, showing me the mini stereo jack. The gears in my brain immediately started spinning, and that night, I went home and looked up the schematics for the ClearCom system.
“The one we had was relatively simple. Through some studying of the schematics, I determined that I could make a cable that was four-pin XLR on one end and mini stereo at the other end. This would allow him to plug his processor into the system and hear what everyone is saying. I brought the cable in the next day and we tested it out. It worked!
The kid was super stoked, but more than that, his parents could not thank me enough for taking the time and care to do something like that for the son. Best day of work ever. I also let him keep the cable I made so that no matter which theater he went to, he could plug right in.” —u/shavemejesus
“I’m a hospice chaplain. One day, I got a call from a nurse. One of our patients was actively dying, and her husband and daughter would appreciate a chaplain visit for prayer. When I walked arrived, the daughter was pacing at the foot of the bed while the husband was sitting by the head of the bed. At this point, the patient was breathing slowly, but her eyes were blank and she didn’t react to anything. I introduced myself, talked with the family about this woman and her life, and prayed with them. I then noticed her breathing rate was declining. I asked the husband, ‘If this were the moment that she dies, what would you want her to hear from you?’ He paused, looked at her as he held her hand, and thanked her for all the years they shared and for being together even to this moment. Through tears, he assured her that he’d be alright and kept telling her how she made his life something worth living. As he said this, she took her last breath.”
“That was it. The family asked if she had passed away, and I affirmed that I thought she had. I then offered them a quiet moment with her before we had a doctor confirm it.
The visit consisted of standard chaplain stuff, and I regularly work with all kinds of people and families who are grappling with the reality of death and how they will handle it. But for me, hearing the story of a life lived well and shared well, and helping that man both hold onto her and let go of her…that was a good day.” —u/Radnortuws
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger as a result of domestic violence, call 911. For anonymous, confidential help, you can call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or chat with an advocate via the website.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE, which routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search for your local center here.