Like mother, like daughter: A nursing story in honor of Mother’s Day

It’s not unusual for career choices to run in families. Children of engineers often become engineers. Children of teachers often become teachers. The same holds true for the profession of nursing: Children—and not just daughters, but sons as well—of nurses often become nurses.

Betty Dowd is an RN whose daughter is also an RN, and this in itself isn’t unusual. However, this mother and daughter do more than share the same profession. They work together—in the same hospital, on the same unit.

Betty and Sally Dowd are both full-time staff nurses on the ACE (Acute Care of the Elderly) medical-surgical unit of Ocean Medical Center in Brick, N.J. Betty has worked here for eight years; Sally has been here for three years, since her graduation from the University of Rhode Island with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Each woman took her own journey to get here, and they’re both enjoying the special bond that comes from working together.

Betty hadn’t initially planned on becoming a nurse. After high school she became a Certified Medical Assistant and worked in a doctor’s office. “I wanted to gain more knowledge and do more, so I decided to go into nursing,” she explains, adding that she never tried to steer Sally toward nursing. “I just wanted to set a good example for her. When she was growing up, I was working full-time and also attending nursing school, so she saw how hard I worked, and she knows how happy I am with the decision I made.”

For Sally, there was never any question in her mind about what career she would pursue. “I became a nurse because, when I was growing up, I spent a lot of time watching what my mom was doing, and I loved it,” she says. “My mom was my inspiration, and I knew for a long time—pretty much since I was eight or 10 years old—that I wanted to be a nurse.”

The fact that both Betty and Sally were attracted to the area of geriatrics may well have had something to do with the fact that when Betty was growing up, her grandfather lived with her family, and when Sally was growing up, her grandparents lived with her family. So both women have had special relationships with elderly family members.

“It’s very rewarding working in geriatrics,” says Betty, “and it’s also about teaching the community to be more respectful toward older adults.” She adds that she’s very happy in her current position, and could see herself working where she is until she retires. Her love for learning is still as strong as ever, and in her spare time she’s pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (she currently holds an Associate Degree in Nursing) online through Walden University. “It’s a personal goal of mine to get my bachelor’s degree, and soon it’s going to be a requirement for all nurses to have it anyway,” Betty says.

It seems that Sally shares this passion for learning. Right now, she’s building some nursing experience, as she’s still a fairly new nurse, but she envisions going back to school in the future and getting her master’s degree. “But I like geriatrics and I would like to stay in this general field,” she says, adding, “I’d also like to try travel nursing.”

Betty and Sally both realize it’s not likely that things will always be the way they are—with the two of them working together as they do today. They work the same shifts, often work on the same days and always work weekends together. It’s the way they want it, and at this point in time, they’re both where they want to be.

About their working relationship, Sally says, “We’ve always been close, and working together has brought us closer. It makes my job easier because I’m working with someone I’ve trusted my entire life. My mom’s always there to help. We share ideas and we work really well together.”

Betty echoes this. “It’s great working together. We share stories. We work on some projects together. We get along very well.”

Away from the hospital, the two do “talk shop.” As Sally explains, “I think we have to talk about it because it’s such an intense career and it’s such a big part of our lives.” What’s interesting is that another member of the family—one of the two Dowd sons—has recently decided to go to nursing school. Soon the “shop talk” will include yet one more member of the family.

“My dad’s a biology teacher and my mom’s a nurse,” Sally says. “So we’re science types of people in my family, and we tend to go for the caring and giving professions, I guess you could say.” Betty’s totally on the same wavelength, and says that one of the reasons she loves the nursing profession is because it’s socially responsible.

It’s quite clear that Betty has set a stellar example for her daughter. Sally is already a dedicated nurse with goals of her own, and although she has sort of followed in her mother’s footsteps, her upbringing has given her the confidence to dream about forging her own path. This unique mother-daughter pair has a lot to be proud of, and here’s hoping they’ll both get Mother’s Day off so they can celebrate it together. But then again, maybe they’ll be working together on Mother’s Day, and that will be their celebration.

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Cynthia Dusseault

Cynthia Dusseault is a professional freelance writer with both a health and an education background. A former medical radiation technologist and elementary school teacher, she realized that no matter what she did, she was drawn to any task that involved writing, so she decided, over a decade ago, to write full-time. Since then, she has written for a variety of magazines and websites including Nursing PRN, National Review of Medicine, University Affairs, Your Health, Education Leaders Today, Today's Parent, Children's Playmate, and many more.She has written about topics such as asthma, genital herpes, circumcision, teleradiology, body art, learning disabilities and exercise trends, and she absolutely adores the fact that writing—particularly doing the research for the articles she writes—makes her a lifelong learner.

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8 Responses to Like mother, like daughter: A nursing story in honor of Mother’s Day

  1. Ivana

    I worked with my mom 13 years,it was great

  2. John Mansky

    I’ve worked with my Mom when she was a nursing student and I was a CNA back in high school. Everyone on the floor thought we were brother and sister! It was a wonderful experience, and I wish it lasted longer than it did, but it was a truly wonderful experience. I went on to be a nurse like Mom, and haven’t looked back since. Mom passed a few years ago, but I know she’s still by my side, every day, as I clock in at work guiding me and laughing when I take myself too seriously!

  3. When I was younger my mom was in school to become a nurse. She was a single mom going to school full time and working; I ended up getting sick and my mom had to drop out to take care of me. After I graduated high school my mom got very sick and I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I have graduated and worked with my mom for a while on the same unit, her being a secretary and me an RN. She is in school now to be a nurse, and I know she will be able to do it. I loved working with my mom and hope we can again some day; I have started travel nursing, so we aren’t working together right now. Such a neat story!

  4. Evelyn

    Absolutely, Positively, 100%. I have and still could work side by side with my mother. She is not only my MOTHER, she’s my BEST FRIEND. We worked well together in the past. We were called the Mother and Daughter Team. Everybody loved seeing us work together, especially seeing how we really worked well together. We brought out the best in each other. We were always smiling and making sure to bring smiles to those around us. My mother made me who I am today and I so proud to be her daughter (HAPPY MOTHERS MOM- I LOVE YOU). She now lives back home in Georgia. And I am still residing in Maryland. I do miss working along side her. She is such a caring and compassionate person with a Heart of Gold.

    I loved reading your story and more power to all of you. A strong knit family that works well together is to be commended.

  5. Allison

    Both of my children were older–12 and 13–when I went to nursing school, while working 40 hours a week as a medical transcriptionist and later as a student nurse/CNA. They both chose to become nurses–my daughter has worked in the ER for 11 years, and my son chose ICU and Wound Care. He is now going back for his FNP. I am so proud of my children–they are wonderful nurses, but I did not push or even encourage them to chose nursing. If they did, I wanted it to be because it was what they wanted to do.

  6. Jane Drucker

    Thank you so much for this beautiful story. This is truly a wonderful family and I am so fortunate to have worked with both Betty and Sally at Ocean Medical Centers ACE Unit. The nurses on this unit are amazing but these two nurses are exceptional. Betty is incredibly down to earth and has such a heart warming presence it is such a pleasure to be around her and Sally has all these qualities as well, so it is evident where she gets it from. It is nurses like this that makes coming work so much more enjoyable!

  7. Linda Ellison

    Starting June 1st I will be working for my daughter. She is the Director of Nursing and she just hired me to work at her facility. We also attended nursing school together. I know this will make us even closer.

  8. Stella T

    When I saw this picture, I said out loud, “Hey, I know them!” I worked on the same floor as Betty and Sally when I was in nursing school, but I never knew they were related. I precepted with both of them for a few shifts. Both of them are caring, sweet people, and as nurses, they are fantastic role models.