All in the family: A nursing story in honor of Father’s Day

Tom Denich is an RN, and he’s also the patriarch of a nursing family. His wife, Brenda, is an RN, as are two of his three children: daughter Mackenzie and son Nicholas. The youngest in the family, Benjamin, will graduate as an RN in May 2012. That’ll make five—all five members of this delightful family. Denich enjoys sharing the story of how he became a nurse, and what it’s like to be the father in a family of nurses.

From Left to Right: Benjamin Denich (21), Brenda Denich, Tom Denich, Mackenzie Denich (26) Nicholas Denich (24)

Denich originally thought his calling was teaching. But while he was studying to obtain his teaching certificate, he worked at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha as a phlebotomist to earn some money, and he changed his mind. He explains that as a phlebotomist—a position that, at that time, simply required on-the-job training—he visited various hospital units, drawing blood and collecting specimens. This involved quite a bit of interaction with nurses.

“I started to notice the nurses and what their job functions were,” Denich explains. “My boss was a clinical instructor in the nursing school and she encouraged me to apply to the nursing program. I did, and I started in the fall of 1977.”

He met Brenda in nursing school and they graduated together in 1980. “If you couldn’t meet a girl in nursing school, then where could you?” he jokes.

Now, 31 years later—and there have been a few moves over the years, to other states and to jobs in other healthcare institutions—Denich is back where it all began, at the Nebraska Medical Center. He holds a management position, and his work focuses on quality improvement outcomes—the improvement of patient care. The young man who thought he’d become a teacher is long gone, replaced by someone totally dedicated to the field of healthcare.

He says that Brenda has had a most interesting ride through a gamut of nursing disciplines. She has worked, for example, on GI and hyperbaric units, in neonatal intensive care and in an eye clinic. She currently works in the pre-op/post-op department at Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital in Omaha.

Denich and his wife both marvel at the fact that all three of their children went into nursing. “It has kind of surprised us,” says Denich, adding that each of the children has found his or her own niche within the profession. “They’re very different kinds of caregivers.”

Mackenzie, 26 years old, is currently completing her master’s degree and is doing her internship in neonatal intensive care at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. “The neonatal child is the only patient for her,” says Denich.

Nicholas, 24 years old, works on the Cardiac Progressive Care Unit at Nebraska Medical Center. “Nicholas loves the technical aspect of nursing—the equipment, the machines. He’s really interested in anaesthesiology,” Denich explains.

Benjamin, 21 years old, and a student in the nursing program at Clarkson College, which is a partner institution of the Nebraska Medical Center, works as a nursing aide on the cancer unit at the center when he’s not in school. “He seems to shine in that type of geriatric population, and he does such a great job up there,” Denich says. “He’s the type of nurse who will sit on the edge of your bed and talk to you for a while.”

You can hear the pride in Denich’s voice as he speaks of his nursing brood. “From a father’s perspective, I’m glad they’re all gainfully employed,” he says with a chuckle, and then adds the most important thing, “and that they’re all happy in their jobs. Nursing is a great career, and the field is so broad that they’ve each been able to do what they want to do.”

When the children come home and gather around the dinner table, you can imagine what the topic of conversation is. “You’d better be in the medical field if you want to eat dinner at our table,” laughs Denich, adding, “It’s the greatest thing to be able to sit around with my family and talk about stuff we all have in common.”

Here’s hoping they’ll be able to do exactly that on this Father’s Day, and many Father’s Days to come.

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