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Mothers inspire daughters in untold ways, including choice of profession. However, that dynamic takes on special meaning when the profession is nursing during a pandemic – and when the mother and daughter work at the same organization.

Such is the case with Jonna Dube, MBA, BSN, RN and her daughter Alex Dube, BSN, RN.

After graduating with a BSN in 2019 from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Alex was hired as a new graduate nurse on the inpatient pediatric floor at UMass Memorial Health.

Then, COVID-19 hit, and Alex’s career path took an unexpected turn.

“I was so happy that we were able to go to the COVID ICUs and be that extra helping hand, because that’s what nursing is.”

Instead of starting her new graduate program to care for children, Alex wound up with her fellow graduate nurses helping patients in COVID units. Most of her time was spent on the newly established prone team, where she worked with other nurses and respiratory therapists to get intubated, sedated COVID patients into a prone position to improve their respiration.

“Going from what I thought was going to be working on the pediatric unit to the adult ICU couldn’t have been more opposite from what I expected going into nursing,” Alex said in an interview. But “it was such a good idea to take all the new graduate nurses and put them where they needed us. That’s what nursing is. It’s being helpful when needed, where needed. I was so happy that we were able to go to the COVID ICUs and be that extra helping hand where they needed us because that’s what nursing is.”

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Alex admits she felt scared as a new nurse who never worked in an ICU before. But, she says, she was proud to be able to help take care of these COVID patients.

 

Following mom’s footsteps

Alex says that her mom’s influence “absolutely” played a role in inspiring her to take up nursing.

“My mom is one of the only ones in our immediate family in the medical field,” Alex says. Alex admired her mom for being the go-to person for medical concerns. “I always admired her for that and I always wanted to do that. I wanted to be someone who can be helpful and have a job where you make a difference every day. My mom was always that person and I always knew I wanted to do that in any capacity, and nursing just seemed like the best way that I could help as many people as I could.”

“Nursing just seemed like the best way that I could help as many people as I could.”

Mother-Daughter RNs Jonna and Alex Dubes.

When learning that her daughter wanted to become a nurse, “honestly my first response was just joy,” says Jonna, obviously proud of her daughter. “Alex puts 100% into everything that she does and helping people is such a gift. I always say I’m so happy for the patients and for the community because she’s a great person and she’s an even better nurse. I was thrilled that she wanted to go into nursing,” Jonna says.

A nurse at UMass Memorial since 2002 when she was an emergency department RN in the new grad program, Jonna currently serves as senior director, government program operations and care pathways. In this position, she works to ensure exceptional care for patients during a 90-day continuum related to the Medicare bundled payment initiative, ensuring they avoid emergency department readmissions.

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At the start of the pandemic, Jonna opened a nurse triage command center with 10 nurses from the organization.  The center took calls from patients in the community who had COVID symptoms or questions, triaged them, and sent them for testing if they met criteria.  The team then delivered all of the results as well as education.

“This was my proudest and most rewarding endeavor as a nurse and as a leader at UMass Memorial Health that I was blessed to be a part of,” Jonna says.  “We were not at the bedside, but we definitely had a huge impact on mitigating emergency department visits as well as stopping the spread of the virus through education.”

 

Return to peds

This past summer, Alex transitioned to pediatrics, where today she works as a staff nurse. She also currently is a student at MCPHS University in the family nurse practitioner master’s program.

Alex admits times have been challenging. “I don’t know any other nursing,” she says. “Pandemic nursing is kind of all I know.”

However, she remains enthusiastic and optimistic.  “As challenging as it’s always been, it’s never made me question what I’m doing,” Alex says.  “I knew going in that my whole job was to help other people. And we still get to do that. It’s gotten harder and it gets difficult sometimes. But our goal is to help the public and that’s what we keep doing, as challenging as it is.”

“I’ve never worked harder than I have these past two years, but I’ve never been more motivated or inspired by the work that we’re doing today.”

Jonna credits her organization’s senior leadership with helping staff through these tough times.  “The leadership has been so uplifting, inspiring. They kept the communication going. They’ve helped us to make sure that it’s really important that we take care of ourselves right now so that we can take care of other people.”

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“We’re just really blessed to be able to make a difference in people’s lives every day,” Jonna says, echoing her daughter. “And that’s what inspires me. I’ve never worked harder than I have these past two years, but I’ve never been more motivated or inspired by the work that we’re doing today.”

Louis Pilla
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