Their mom, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother all had been nurses, but the "family business" held no initial allure for Amanda Grell '16 and her sister Jessica '20.
Both rethought their position after getting a feel for serving on the frontlines of the healthcare profession. And when they decided nursing was their future, they knew where to get started.
If nursing runs in the family, the St. Ambrose University Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program is the place to be.
Jessica Grell was among three May 2020 graduates who followed an older sibling through the program. Jacob "Jake" Adams and Beth Lampasona also earned their BSN degrees three years after their sisters. Cara Adams French and Mallory Lampasona were members of the BSN Class of 2017.
"While our 2020 Spring Pinning Ceremony was in an alternative format due to the pandemic, it was amazing to see these students being pinned by their family members," said Katrina Browning, PhD, an assistant professor and chair of the Nursing Department.
"Such a bittersweet time watching Cara Adams French place the SAU nursing pin on Jake Adams; Mallory Lampasona place the nursing pin on her sister, Beth; as well as watching the multigenerational nursing legacy come into play with Jessica Grell being pinned by her mother."
Like the Grells, Cara Adams French came around to nursing late. She started at SAU as an education major, but ultimately decided nursing would be a better fit for her people skills and passion to help.
"I knew I liked being around people, and wanted to help people. And I wanted a career where I knew there would be jobs available," she said. "And we always are needing nurses and people in the healthcare field."
As he pondered his own future, Jake decided his sister knew best.
"I was the most confused kid leaving high school," he said. "I saw my sister going into nursing, and she was happy and successful, so I decided to go for it. I'm glad I chose it, because now I love it."
Amanda Grell was considering other career choices while enrolled in community college, but when she started working in an assisted living facility in her hometown of DeWitt, Iowa, the importance and appeal of a caring career that suited three previous generations became clear. Jessica felt a similar call when she took a high school job in the dietary department at the DeWitt Hospital.
Once Jessica knew her path would lead to a nursing pin, St. Ambrose became the likely first step. "I don't think I really ever discussed my decision with Amanda, but I more just decided on my own," Jessica said. "SAU gave me a comfort that I wouldn't have found elsewhere."
Jessica has leaned on Amanda more after graduation.
"I think I ask her more questions and talk about nursing more now," she said. "It's a really special thing to share with both my sister and my mom."
The Grells both work for Genesis Health System as float pool nurses. They are like the substitute teachers of nursing, hopping into any department that needs help that day.
In mid-March, as COVID-19 hit the country, Amanda was assigned to the intensive care unit for more than a month. "The atmosphere in the hospital has been different with COVID," she said. "We don't know how long this will last. But the ICU nurses I worked with were amazing."
Jessica said starting her nursing career during a pandemic has been a little challenging, but she is still looking forward to all the possibilities in her field.
"There's many options that I've thought of: staying in the float pool, going back to school, doing traveling nursing, going to just one floor," she said. "I'm just not sure what will happen with my career yet, but I'm excited to find out."
Cara Adams French now works at Genesis on the neuro-oncology floor. After his graduation, Jake transitioned from a nursing assistant at Unity Point Health-Trinity Bettendorf to a fulltime nurse in the intensive care unit, where he often assists COVID-19 patients.
"Seeing patients on ventilators, people in the hospital for 30 days and they can't have a visitor, it's hard," he said. "They are talking only on the phone to their families and looking at them through an outside window. This experience will probably live with me for the rest of my life. You can't forget something like that."
Although nursing can be emotionally challenging, Jake said that the SAU program sets graduates up for success.
"As a working nurse, I know that St. Ambrose has an amazing nursing program," he said. "People have been shocked that I just graduated and can be talking about concepts of nursing, theories and ethics that you don't get in every program."
–Kady Riches '08