They say nursing is a calling. But when your mom is a nurse and you’re following in her footsteps, you don’t need to be told. You’ve seen it in action — from back when you were just a little kid!
Some nurses always knew what they wanted to be. Some are military veterans. Some doggedly climbed their way up, from housekeeper through to CNA, LPN and RN. Some have unusual backgrounds — as a brick maker, for example! Others overcame hardship and homelessness to get where they are now.
There are countless ways to come to this profession — but some hit just a little differently! And we can’t think of many that come from deeper within than becoming a nurse because you saw how caring and dedicated a nurse your mom or dad was.
We want to tell you about two such uplifting stories about exceptional nursing families. Read them both, because one has a special twist: it’s about three generations of healthcare workers!
“If I become half the nurse she is, I would be honored”
We got to know Carolyn Marie Stillian and her mother Teresa Lampkins-Reeves during Nurses Week, when they nominated each other for our Nurses Week giveaway.
Their story is as impressive as it is moving.
When Carolyn was just an adorable toddler, her mom was in nursing school. That’s her in the first photo, at her mother’s graduation!
It can’t have been easy: Carolyn’s dad had passed away and Teresa was left raising both of her daughters, one year old and two years old, by herself — while finding moments to study whenever and wherever she could.
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But it meant that Carolyn was immersed in the world of nursing from the very start of her life. And what she saw impressed her so much, she wanted nothing but to be part of it herself as well!
“I grew up hearing stories about the lives she touched,” she told us, “and how much love she had for her profession. Getting to witness how caring she is… I knew I wanted to be like her.”
Now, 24 years later, Carolyn is a nurse herself, and Teresa is as proud as she can be. “I love watching her learn and realize it’s a calling not a job!”
But Carolyn feels she still has a long way to go to truly follow in her mom’s footsteps. Seeing her mom beat breast cancer and continue nursing only solidified her commitment. “She is the most selfless person I know. She works hard for her patients and for her family… she is my biggest inspiration. if I become half the nurse she is, I would be honored!”
When health care runs in your blood
Brenda Ray Perry worked in the medical field for 37 years. Few of her colleagues impressed her as much as the nurses she worked with. “All nurses should be recognized,” she insists. “They are the right hand of the medical provider. They advocate for the patient. I have seen their hard work and dedication… their job is a true calling.”
How proud must she have been, then, when her daughter became a nurse — and not just any nurse! Sheila Hinson Mullis was a hospice social worker originally, Brenda recounted when she nominated her daughter during Nurses Week. But even though she already had a master’s degree, she returned to nursing school to become a hospice RN because “she felt like she could do more as a nurse for her patients.”
That dedication has served her tremendously. Hospice nursing is a challenging and incredibly rewarding specialty, but also an often misunderstood one. You want to help your patients “transition from this world to eternity with dignity,” as Brenda describes it. But “hospice is not only for transitioning,” she emphasizes. “Some people think it is only for those that are terminal,” but the “care, love and support” hospice nurses provide is so much broader!
Then, Sheila herself had a brush with death. “Last year, my daughter was diagnosed with a very rare lung cancer,” Brenda recounted. “The doctors removed two nodules from her lungs.” But it’s been nine months now, and “she is thriving”. “She has resumed her job as a RN with hospice and she is a witness to her patients”.
“I am beyond proud!”
But this is where the family story turns out to have taken another momentous turn. Because Sheila in her turn nominated her daughter — who is also a nurse!
Jordyn Ellis graduated nursing school in 2020. Yeah, that’s right. She “was thrown into the fire,” her mom remembers, working on the Progressive Care Unit right when Covid tore through the country.
“She showed such compassion during what was a very difficult and challenging time,” Sheila said. “She held the hands of many patients who were dying without their family. She became an advocate for her patients. She showed amazing strength when outcomes were bleak.”
Three years later, Jordyn is still at the bedside, caring for ICU patients, and Sheila says, “she has grown tremendously and she seeks to learn. She is my hero and I am beyond proud!”
“It’s crazy how far nursing practice has come and all the stuff she’s been able to teach me”
If you need a little bit more aww in your day, there are worse ways than to look for more of these stories. Take the two male nurses who posted on the nursing reddit a few years ago, and whose stories mirror each other.
One finally came to become a nurse just like his mom, a nurse of 31 years — and ended up working on the same floor! “It’s crazy how far nursing practice has come and all the stuff she’s been able to teach me,” he wrote.
But in the other’s case, it was his mom who joined him: “My mom decided to reactivate her nursing license after 20 years. I get to teach her!”
We also love the way Zach Gibbs described his choice it in a profile on the Wellspan website. His mom Cathi has been a registered nurse for 16 years and now works as a case manager. When he was a kid, she was going to nursing school — and he’d do flash cards with her. “That was the first time I went to nursing school,” he laughed.
Fast forward to his sophomore year and, he recounted, “I asked myself what I could see myself doing every day. I want to do something that is intrinsically rewarding. My mom loves it. I’m a lot like my mom. I thought I already went to nursing school. I may as well do it again.”
When you listen to all these stories, what do you think? How would you feel if your son or daughter decided to become a nurse, just like you?