NJ Nurse Follows Mom, Grandma’s Legacy
Kelsey Byrd, 22, a newly registered nurse from New Jersey has quite the legacy to live up to—because not only are her mother and grandmother both nurses, but they’re all emergency room nurses who attended the same nursing school.
Kelsey is the third generation of female nurses in her family and if she’s anything like her mom and grandma before her, she’s just embarking on the start of a long and successful career in the nursing field. Here’s what the Byrd family of ER nurses had to say about their careers, what growing up in a family of nurses is like, and what the newest nurse hopes her future will hold.
Kelsey explains that she knew from a very early age that she would follow in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps to become an ER nurse. “I have always had a passion to go into the nursing profession since I was young,” she says. “Listening to them share crazy stories and seeing how they enjoyed their careers definitely influenced my decision. I have always wanted a career that was very hands-on and helped others, so it was a good career choice for me personally.”
Kelsey’s mom, Teresa Byrd, who went on to become an ER NP, tells Nurse.org that she also knew from a very young age that Kelsey was destined to be a nurse. “She would bring injured and sick friends to me and beam with pride when I bandaged a friend’s wound or gave them medical advice,” she remembers. “She loved to hear my work stories.”
And of course, Teresa’s mom and Kelsey’s grandmother, Jan Town Matthai, who also went on to become an ER NP, couldn’t help but notice that Kelsey had what it took to become a nurse from an early age remarking, “Kelsey always had deep empathy, an admirable work ethic, a caring nature and a fascination for our Emergency Nursing stories that fit perfectly for her to follow a call to nursing.”
As you might imagine, growing up in a family of professional nurses had both its benefits and its drawbacks. For starters, witnessing emergencies every day at work has the tendency to put your own family’s minor ailments into a little less urgent mode. “My mom was extremely laid back when it came to our immediate family,” Kelsey says. “If it wasn’t ER serious, it wasn’t that serious at all. We live on crazy glue (to close wounds) and hope,” she adds with a laugh.
And Grandma Jan `fessed up to her role in the family’s view of medical treatments. “To be honest, seeing people with major injuries and medical problems does make one dismissive of what we assume to be minor in our own families,” she admits. “My daughter Teresa once said she has no idea when to go to a doctor. My bad.”
But, as a benefit, not only did Kelsey get to grow up witnessing two female role models who pursued their passions—”They both LOVE their careers; they were both very successful and happy with their career choice,” she remarks—but she also had the opportunity to receive a lot of great advice when it came time to making her own career choices in life.
“I got a lot of advice when I made my decision to be a nurse and hopefully will continue to get advice for as long as possible,” Kelsey says. She adds that seeing how much both her mom and grandmother truly loved and enjoyed their careers heavily influenced her decision to choose a career that she would love.
“I got to see and hear their stories over the years about nursing and emergency room nursing. The stories were not only interesting cases, but stories of homelessness, poverty, crime, trauma, birth and death. They both said how fun they had working in the ER and told outrageous stories.”
Footsteps to Follow
While it seems like a crazy enough coincidence that all three nurses work in ER, it’s an even bigger coincidence that they all also happened to choose to attend the same nursing school too at Widener.
Jan remembers telling Kelsey stories of how, before the advent of online classes in the 80s, she had to work 10-hour days four times a week in order to drive 81 miles one way to class. Meanwhile, Teresa was working in the ER at Shore Medical Center and had just become pregnant with Kelsey when she decided to get her NP and drove three nights a week over an hour away to class. And while Kelsey looked at many other different colleges and neither Jan nor Teresa pushed Widener on her, when Kelsey walked onto campus, she immediately felt at home.
“When she walked on campus she said, ‘This is it, I’m done looking!’ I remember thinking, ‘Of course it is! You were here with me for 9 months of pregnancy!’” Teresa laughs. “I was so happy.”
Although both Kelsey’s mother and grandmother went on to earn their NPs, Kelsey is undecided if she will follow in those particular footsteps. She says she’s in “no rush” and hopes to put a few years of ER experience under her belt before making any decisions about her future career path.
For now, Kelsey is proud to be a third-generation nurse and enjoying her time getting started in the ER. She also has the benefit of receiving assurance from both veteran ER nurses that she has what it takes to succeed in the busy ER environment. “Kelsey’s personality and emergency nursing are a perfect match,” Jan remarks. “To work in that setting a certain personality and temperament is required along with caring for people and their families continuously. One cannot get unhinged by incoming constantly.”
Teresa also agrees, noting that Kelsey has key personality traits that ER nurses need, including working well under pressure, not getting overwhelmed easily, and being able to deal with the “craziness” with humor and sarcasm instead of becoming overwhelmed and frustrated.
Kelsey’s also soaking up all the advice she can from both her mom and grandma about how to be the best nurse possible. “Our personalities are very similar and they make it look like the greatest job on the planet,” she says. “My mom tells me all of the time that nursing is the best job in the world…every day that you work you made a difference in someone’s life and the cases that you see can change your life as well.”
While you may not have the benefit of being able to turn to both your mom and grandma for advice on nursing like Kelsey can, fortunately, we can all benefit from the advice they provide because Kelsey’s sharing their top pieces of advice:
“Their main piece of advice was that learning never ends in nursing, ask for help, look things up, and help other nurses that you work with when you can. Working as a nurse often times means being a good teammate.”
And last but not least, some parting words from Teresa about anyone—a third generation or not—who is considering nursing:
“Nursing is such a rich and satisfying career. You laugh and cry with your patients, you find resources for those in need, comfort the sad and the sick, bring new life to the world and bring the dying back to life or help them have a dignified death. It has its difficulties. Violence, shortages, long hours and you see things that can be very difficult for anyone to have to witness but keeping a positive attitude and loving what you do makes it worth it!”
About the Author: Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan. She wrote this article for nurse.org.