RN Spotlight – An Interview with a Family of 4 Registered Nurses’

PEINU Communications Officer, Cindy Hierlihy, sat down with the family of nurses recently to find out more about why they all decided to follow a similar path.

In 2016, all four women worked on the Island at the same time as Registered Nurses. Mary currently works in home care. Susan has just returned back to the QEH emergency department from maternity leave. Bethany and Jennifer also work at the QEH.

When Mary MacPherson graduated from the school of nursing in 1970, she never thought she would have three of her four children follow in her footsteps and go into the health care profession. Mary, along with her oldest daughter Susan and twins, Bethany and Jennifer, are all Registered Nurses, with a combined experience in the profession of 84 years.


SUPPORT NETWORK Sisters Bethany MacPherson (right), Susan MacPherson-Carruthers (centre), Jennifer Garrett (left) and mother Mary MacPherson (sitting) speak candidly about what it is like to be  Registered Nurses in the same family.

Q: When did you decide to become a nurse?

Jennifer: “When I went into nursing in 2004, I had already received a psychology degree, but I realized I couldn’t do much with the degree. I think I always wanted to be a nurse, but I didn’t think I had the ambition to do so.”

Bethany: “It was not until the year before going into nursing school that I decided to become a nurse. I never really thought I wanted to be a nurse because I always wanted to do something that my parents didn’t do. At that point, I had already had two years of university (in another program) and then took one year off, before I decided to go into nursing.”

Susan: “The pressure was on me because Mom always thought I would follow in her footsteps. Becoming a nurse was always in the back of my head, but I procrastinated a lot and took a different route and became a medical secretary, where I worked for 7 years. I worked in doctor’s offices, however, it got to the point that there wasn’t any place to go, so I decided to go back to school.”

Mary: “I always wanted to be a nurse. When I was younger, I had a brother who was burned badly and I took him under my wing and looked after him.”

Q: Who worked outside PEI? Why did you return?

Jennifer: “I went to an outpost clinic in northern Saskatchewan for two years, then to Yellowknife. Northern Saskatchewan was remote – two years was enough, but it was a good experience. I had just graduated, so I hadn’t done a whole lot. It was scary, but the staff there were really good. It was in a community of 700 people and there were only three other permanent nurses. The doctor was across the lake (eight minute flight) and came twice a week for clinic. We just had to use Medivac if a patient was critically ill.”

Bethany: “I worked most of my career off the Island. I spent three years in Massachusetts and eight years in Yellowknife. I knew I wanted to move away. I thought working in the States was going to be completely different from Canada, but it wasn’t. It was just time for me to come back to the Island.”

Q: When returning to the Island, did you have any problems finding a job?

Bethany: “I sent an e-mail, explaining that I wanted to return in June (2016) and asked if there were any jobs? I received an e-mail back in two minutes asking why wait until June! It took me two minutes to get a job. It was just really good timing because of the new model of care that had just been implemented in April.”

Jennifer: “I didn’t have any issues finding work. I currently have a temporary line.”

Q: How many of you are mothers? How do you manage a busy career with motherhood?

Susan: ” I have two children and I’m just returning back to work from maternity leave. Last time I returned back to work, I had a little boy and it was easy because between my husband and I, our schedules worked out great. I think this time it will be a little harder with two at home and working 12 hour/day and night shifts. I debated dropping down a percentage in my line, but I will have to see what full time does.”

Mary: “There are a lot of pluses working in health care – you can be a mother and keep working shift work (although shift work has its drawbacks). When I went home with the twins, I had four children, and the oldest at the time was 3 1/2 years old. I wasn’t home very long, with the twins, before receiving a call from the nursing supervisor, interested in knowing if I was returning to my position. I was adamant I was keeping my job and would return back to work.”

Jennifer is also a mother of a 4 year old boy.

Q: Mary What changes have you seen through the years?

“The technology has been the biggest change and challenge. I learned to use the computer through work. I couldn’t even type before. When I went through school, we were taught hands on nursing, now they are always coming up with something else for us to do. For example, today, I had an admission that took me one hour, I spent 40 minutes when I returned back to the office to input all the information and I’m still not done. I figure it will take me another hour to finish. In the time I am taking to input the information, I am away from the client/patient. That is a big change from when I graduated nursing.”

Bethany: “That is what a lot of nurses are finding by using computer charting. It takes longer to get through the charting and that’s valuable time away from the patient. I think we have been doing it for so long, we are used to it. But now coming from doing paper charting in Yellowknife, it is a lot easier to write it down on paper. They will never get rid of it, but it does take away from the patient.”

Susan: “Especially while working in emergency, you don’t have time to input right away because there is always something else to do. You are forever coming back and sitting down trying to remember what you did. That is hard in the emergency setting because you are always flip-flopping.”

Mary: “You almost have to document, then input it later, if you really want to be accurate and remember, but that is double documenting. Extra time yet again away from the patients.” All daughters were unanimous in that they would like to see their mother finally retire. But, when Mary was asked if she is going to slow down, her response – “I really enjoy nursing. Even yet, I don’t want to give it up.” Mary may have had her concerns in the beginning when all three daughters chose the nursing profession. But, seeing them happy in their careers, Mary is very proud to have them walking in her footsteps.