When Nursing Week and Mother’s Day Overlap…

Pennie Peralta and Jessica Peralta Burke

Curious what dinner table conversation is like when there are two nurses in the family? We asked our dynamic duo—Pennie Peralta, VP and Chief Nursing Officer for Roper St. Francis Healthcare and CNO for Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, and her daughter, Jessica Peralta Burke, an ICU nurse for Roper St. Francis, to share some thoughts.  

When did you know nursing was your path?
Mom/PP: I was paying my own way through college, thinking of being a veterinarian, but realized how long and expensive that would be. I realized nursing would still give me a career helping others… just people instead of animals!

Daughter/JPB: I think I always knew I would do something in the medical field. I grew up watching my mom grow in her career as a nurse and I have always been in and around the hospital, so nursing seemed like a natural fit!

What’s the most surprising thing about nursing that you didn’t expect to either enjoy so much or find so challenging?
Mom/PP: I am not sure I fully understood the emotional connections that patients make with those who care for them. Nurses are the “uninvited guests” at some of the happiest and saddest times life can offer. I recently received a note from the wife of a patient I cared for more than 30 years ago, saying she still remembered and was grateful for how special I had made him feel. It is wonderful to know that you have made that kind of impression and maybe offered people comfort in some way.

Daughter/JPB: Nursing really opened my eyes to caring for people from all different aspects of life. This can provide challenges as well, but I enjoy being able to meet people that I might not otherwise have the opportunity of knowing. This holds true for my teammates too. My co-workers have truly become like family.

How important are role models and teamwork in the nursing environment?
Mom/PP: Nursing is a team sport. There is nothing we do as nurses that we can accomplish alone, and I believe it is nursing that needs to be the role model for how to work in a team, lead a team, utilize the strengths of the team, redirect when necessary and keep everyone focused on caring for the patient.

Daughter/JPB: I wouldn’t be the nurse I am today if it weren’t for my role models. Nursing is both challenging and rewarding, and you certainly can’t do it well alone! I lean on and learn from my teammates every single day.

In what ways is motherhood/parenting like nursing?
Mom/PP: Both require a selflessness, an overwhelming sense of responsibility, being resilient, endless flexibility, and if you want survive, a huge sense of humor! Also parenting and nursing will give back more joy and love than you can possibly imagine.

Daughter/JPB: I am expecting the birth of my first child (a girl!) next month. I can’t speak from experience just yet, but I imagine that motherhood, like nursing, will require a lot of patience and compassion.

Q to Jessica: How has your mom been a role model to you? Any benefits/downsides to working in the same healthcare system with her?
My mom is the ultimate role model, both as a nurse and as a soon-to-be new mother. I think I learned more about being a great nurse from her before I ever even entered nursing school, especially her commitment to always do what is right for the patient. Working in the same healthcare system as my mother has HUGE benefits, but not just because she is my mother. I have been lucky to work for an organization with leaders like her who care so much about patient care and value nurses as a very important part of that. She makes it possible for our nursing voices to be heard. I have always thought that I don’t get special treatment because I am her daughter, but that we all get special treatment because she treats every nurse like they were her own.

Q to Pennie: What is it like to have a daughter as a colleague?
It is an amazing feeling to see my daughter caring for our patients. I know they are in good hands with her, and it warms my heart to see the next generation of nurses carrying the work forward. She’s also done an excellent job keeping me aware of the frontline challenges, so that I can be a better leader facilitating work environment and resources for them.

Anything else to add?
Mom/PP: Well, a two-nurse household makes for some very interesting dinner time conversations that other family members might not find appetizing…you can only imagine. There is nothing that nurses cannot talk about while they eat. We have been asked more than a few times to please be quiet.