Family Ties: Nurses Recall Why They Chose the Profession

Posted on Mon, May 09, 2016

It's National Nurses Week! A few of the amazing nurses on our team shared why they entered the profession - and a few photos from yesteryear. Get ready to be inspired!

Janice Beck

Janice Beck

I decided to become a nurse after growing up with my older brother by 15 months, Mack, who had cerebral palsy. My father worked three jobs: engineer on railroad, correction officer at a local prison, and cashier at an ABC store. My mother worked three jobs as well: welder full-time, seamstress, and laundress on the side. We had several older siblings who would step in and out helping, but they didn’t live with us. It was up to my little sister, brother and me to care for Mack while our parents worked, anywhere from 12 to 14 hours day.

It was heartbreaking to watch his limbs contract over the years, and he had multiple seizures every day. When he wasn’t hurting, he had the most amazing smile that made all of the work worth it. I met the love of my life when Mack was still alive, and Mike would help take turns watching him as well. To this day, Mike, my little sister, brother and I are forever united as one. Mack was my inspiration to become a nurse and was the inspiration for my sister to pursue the profession as well.

Melissa Reinke

Melissa Reinke

My parents divorced when I was four months old and my mother's parents played a huge part in helping raise me and my siblings. My grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when I was in junior high. Growing up, I watched her struggle with the disease and saw it take her freedom on a day-to-day basis. By the time I graduated high school, the disease had pretty much taken over her body. She had her good days where she could get around pretty well, but other days I remember her crawling through her house because that was the only way she could get around.

I spent a lot of my spare time while I was in high school and shortly after helping my grandfather take care of my grandmother. Then he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. It was a huge blow to our entire family, but especially my grandmother. My family all pitched in to take care of both of them for quite some time. When my grandfather’s health declined further, we had to make the decision to move them into assisted living. The first night in the assisted-living center my grandfather started having seizures. He was transported to our local hospital, where he died two days later. At that point, my grandmother's disease had left her unable to care for herself. Her mind was still intact, but her body didn’t want to cooperate. I felt horrible for her; after 52 years she was alone. It was then that I decided to become a nursing assistant so that I could work in the nursing home where my grandmother lived. I worked mainly night shifts, where I got to spend my evenings with her and have breakfast with her after every shift. I was in college but my major was headed toward a business degree, since my father owned a large trucking company and I wanted to go into the family business. I knew deep down that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but the thought of nursing school scared me. I had many conversations with my grandmother about nursing and she always encouraged me to follow my dream. Eventually she started to develop dementia and no longer remembered me. By this time my husband and I had our first child and decided to move from Iowa to Wisconsin. Shortly after I left, my grandmother passed away. When I went to her funeral, I barely recognized her; she’d lost so much weight and didn’t look like the same strong lady that I remembered.

Years passed and I worked different office jobs. I knew this was not what I wanted to do with my life, but I needed to help provide for my family. Shortly after my second child was born, my mom and I came across some boxes from my grandparents’ house. In one of those boxes, I found my grandmother's journals. Reading about her life and her disease from her perspective was an eye-opening experience. I could see the disease progress just by looking at her handwriting. When she went into the nursing home, she often mentioned me in her journal. She wrote about how much she loved having me around, how she hoped I’d become a nurse and how proud that would make her. I remember crying and thinking how I had failed her. At that moment I made the decision to figure out a way to make it work. The next week when I returned home I contacted the local college and enrolled in nursing school. I worked a full time job, raised two children, and went to school full-time. It was a rough couple years but my husband and I made it work! I've never been more proud of anything I've ever done (besides having my kids).

Jan Corcoran

Jan Corcoran

Being exposed to the medical field through my brother, who had cerebral palsy, gave me a sort of comfort level just by helping care for him and by attending his many hospital visits for surgery and other issues. Then when I was 19, my father was in a car accident. I rode in the ambulance with him as he was transferred to a larger facility to get a CT scan. I questioned the medic about his job so much that he finally invited me to ride along with them just to shut me up – and the rest is history.

I worked in EMS in my rural hometown, then later in New Orleans, so ED nursing was the next step in keeping the adrenalin going. My first and only vanity license plate after becoming an ER nurse said “MORE EPI”! I can remember a feeling of panic when I thought I wouldn’t be able to immediately work in the ED after graduating from nursing school, but thankfully I did and was able to meet my partners in crime, Jan Beck & Shayne Middleton. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to identify and intervene with someone who is critically ill or injured. It’s an instant gratification, and not only do nurses’ actions affect patients, the patients affect us as well, teaching us empathy and patience.

I’m proud of our profession and even more proud that I can continue to support nursing with my amazing three partners in my role as Director of Client Services.

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