Nursing…It Runs in the Family

Karen Harris and Andrew

Karen Harris and her son Andrew

by, Karen T. Harris, MSN, RN, WHNP-BC

I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse. From telling my mom that at the age of four to becoming the Vice President Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital after nursing for 27 years, my passion for nursing and patient care has never diminished.

No one in my immediate family of eight children is in nursing, so when I had my own children I had no expectation that they would hold the same passion that I did. However, looking back I can see what might have led my son Andrew into the health care world.

I was a pretty stern rules-based mom, and my children and I were immersed in each other’s lives. I remember one time my son Andrew was having a procedure done at my hospital and he tagged along to one of my breastfeeding meetings. It seemed like a normal working mom thing to do.

When my children’s friends came over to our house and didn’t want to wear gloves out in the freezing cold, I’d share journal articles on frostbite, or when they wanted to get a tattoo I’d pull out something on all the problems that can arise.

It was common over dinner to have frank conversations about what had happened at work that day, and we always answered questions openly and honestly.

When Andrew was admitted to Oakland University for nursing, it was as much fun for me as it was for him. We studied medication cards together and it was a great refresher for me since I was not on the front line of clinical nursing any longer. I learned a lot about new drugs on the market and different ways of doing things. I got to enjoy this again when he took his boards and we continued to learn together.

Andrew has been an orthopedics nurse for two years now, and we still have great conversation and learn from each other almost daily.

One of the things I learned has changed the way I approach new nurses. Seeing first-hand the challenges Andrew has faced with experienced nurses who may not be open to new perspectives has made me even more aware of the antagonistic environment they can experience. Now as I hire new nurses, I look to see how I can create a welcoming environment that includes incorporating their fresh perspectives and trust them to provide creative decision making with rationale.

Support the profession of nursing so that it can be strong.

So many nurses can become disheartened or disengaged with the profession, and it is up to us – nurses and parents – to encourage our new nurses and our children to find their niche which they can share their passion and find their joy the way Andrew and I have found ours.

Karen T. Harris, MSN, RN, WHNP-BCKaren Harris is the President of AWHONN and Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

4 thoughts on “Nursing…It Runs in the Family

  1. Enid Kreiner says:

    Very nice. My daughter and I are both OB nurses and AWHONN members. We also have the same birthday! I was surprised too that she wanted to be a nurse and then also to pursue the same specialty.

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