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It is not unusual for nursing and other healthcare professions to run in the family, but sometimes the connections that lead a new generation into nursing can be almost eerie.
Tara Wood, DNP, CRNP, NNP-BC was a NICU nurse when she gave birth to twins Jade and Taylor England. Her newborns weighed less than two pounds and spent their first 87 days in a NICU. At some point, it seems to have been written that at least one daughter was destined to return one day.
“We had central lines,” says Jade England, who is completing her BSN degree at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Nursing. Both sisters have a permanent souvenir of the constant care they needed from birth: “We still have that scar from where they were placed. It’s just crazy to see that we have actual proof of what we’ve been through.”
That scar is the only physical reminder of their journey. England knows how lucky they are to not have any complications from being born prematurely. Growing up, she saw the pictures of their tiny bodies covered in sensors and tubes. When she decided to become a nurse, she knew she had to return to where her story started—the NICU.
“You have to have compassion for those babies. You just have to be called to do that,” England said. “I want to be able to be that nurse to let the parents know that I was in their child’s place. I just want to provide the best care possible and hopefully sharing my story will make a difference in their stay in the NICU. I don’t want to give them false hope, but I also want them to know that miracles happen.”
“She literally walked me around the entire unit and was telling everybody, ‘this is my baby, I took care of her and her sister.’”
Jade England graduated in April and now works at UAB Hospital in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her mother, Tara Wood – who is a member of the faculty at UABSON hopes her daughter will be able to give families the comfort she remembered needing.
“They’re going to be told all the bad, but when you can see a living example of success, I think it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see what she does,” Wood said.
England will be working with one of the nurse practitioners who cared for her at the hospital where she was born. During her clinical at UAB, they made the connection.
“She literally walked me around the entire unit and was telling everybody, ‘this is my baby, I took care of her and her sister,’” England said.
“I think I found healing by helping others.”
Wood remembers not being able to hold her children for months. During that time, her lifeline to her girls was the nurses and nurse practitioners.
“My world was rocked,” Wood said. “My babies were really sick. Both of the girls were on the ventilator for weeks. Their organs were premature, and you’re faced with all the things that can go wrong. Just knowing that every minute mattered, it really put you in a constant state of terror and panic, of not really knowing how your babies are going to survive, much less thrive.”
She had planned on becoming a teacher, but the twins’ experience in the hospital changed her life. She realized she wanted to be a nurse so she could care for other families.
After working as a NICU nurse, Wood earned her Master of Science (MSN) in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the UAB School of Nursing. The journey came full circle for her as well. She’s now an Assistant Professor at the School and the Coordinator for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Specialty Track, teaching and preparing nurses to care for infants and families.
“Being a NICU mom 22 years ago we didn’t really talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and things like that that really lingered. I think I found healing by helping others,” Wood said.
Taylor England, Jade’s twin sister, also graduated from UAB this spring with a major in psychology with a minor in legal affairs and a certificate in mental health.
Jade wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and plans to return to school next year to start the Post-BSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Pathway to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. One day, she hopes to teach alongside her mom.
“I’m a proud mom and I want to share them with the world because I think that they were born to do great things,” their mother says. “They have servants’ hearts, and they want to help and do good.”
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