CMH nursing stories

CMH celebrates Nursing Week with nurses sharing their “why” stories

By Judy Geiger, Vice President of Patient Care Services

May 6-12 is National Nursing Week in the United States. This year, we invited CMH nurses to share why they went into nursing and had 45 wonderful stories given to us. Here are some of their stories:

Tiffani Casper, Nursing Supervisors: I started as a caregiver for my grandmother at 15 years old. I wanted to be a nurse when I was a child. I raised my boys first, then returned to school to obtain my nursing degree. I started in the ED and now have moved on to House Supervisor. My goal is to give support to staff, patients, family and management. This is my work family and I care for all of them as I do my family. 

Lisa Smith, Surgical Services: I started out in Surgery as a clerk and witnessed my first surgery and was hooked. I couldn’t wait to start school and finish so I could actually start assisting surgeons. Twenty-five years later, and it’s still the best decision I’ve ever made.

Mary Rizzo, FNP-BC

Mary Rizzo, FNP-BC

Mary Rizzo, FNP-BC, Astoria Primary Care: I started out trying to get into paramedic school, but there was no room. So, I enrolled in nursing. Along with job security,  I was fascinated with the human body and the science that explains how we work (or don’t). I still enjoy always learning and making a difference in people’s lives.

Kelsey Betts

Kelsey Betts

Kelsey Betts, Family Birthing Center: At a very young age, I was obsessed with babies and caring for people. I became a certified babysitter with CPR as soon as I could and knew one day this was my career. I graduated high school and went straight into nursing. I obtained my dream job and haven’t looked back since.

Jenni Rosales, Same Day Surgery: At Career Day in sixth grade, there was a registered nurse who spoke. She was kind and beautiful and strong and smart to my 11-year-old self. I immediately wanted to be just like her. 

Nancy Harbour, Care Management: I worked 20 years in the insurance industry and needed a change. At age 50, I entered nursing school at Concordia University in Portland. I graduated in 2013 at age 52 and never looked back.

Hailey Lund

Hailey Lund, Emergency Department: I watched my mom go through nursing school while I was in high school, and it intrigued me.

Elise Thornton, Critical Care: My story began with my uncle who was diagnosed with ALS when I was 10. At 17  years old, I dropped out of school and became his full-time caregiver. We were fortunate to be able to care for him at home. I dropped down to caring for him one day a week so I could work at a vet hospital, as well. After five years, I moved out of the area with my now husband. I was able to get my GED and go to school for nursing because my uncle inspired me and told me I could do it and go all the way in school. I got my bachelor’s in nursing at the University of Maine and have been a nurse for six-and-a-half years. I am now in graduate school getting my FNP degree all because my uncle had faith in me that I could do it. He passed away while I was in nursing school, but I am glad for everything he taught me.

Whitney Beecham, Med/Surg: My grandmother, Donna Adamson, worked as an RN at the old St. Mary’s Hospital and moved over to CMH in 1977 until her retirement in 1997. The majority of her career was spent on night shift. She taught me how to palpitate a radial pulse during church one Sunday morning. I feel proud to be walking the same halls that she walked and being a CMH night shift nurse just like her. Night shift makes napping my favorite hobby, which was hers, too!

Becky Lewis, OB: My first son was sick when he was born, and it was a scary time. The nurses made such a difference for our family. It inspired me to want to help other people during a difficult time.

Mackenzie Payton, Medical Group: I became a nurse to help people heal and be present for patients who don’t have anyone else. I started my nursing career in high school as a CNA and never looked back!

Patricia Boullie, CNM

Patricia Boullie, CNM

Patti Boullie, Women’s Center: My mom made me.

Margaret Santee

Margaret Santee, Care Management: I always wanted to be a nurse. As an eight-year-old, I wore a “nurse’s uniform” (blue cape, white apron, nurse cap) in our small town, local Fourth of July parade. I wanted to take care of people. I didn’t want to be a teacher or a nun or a secretary.

Michele Chamberlin, Med/Surg: After my environmental testing company went out of business, I was looking for another career path. My husband suggested I would be a great nurse due to my listening and caring personality. Plus, he is an accident waiting to happen, so having a medical professional in the house was a good choice. I tried to start in California, but instead was accepted to and completed the nursing program at Clatsop Community College.

Jammie Eastham, Nursing Supervisors: I was drawn to nursing when my grandfather had open heart surgery. I was fascinated by all of the equipment and what the nurses were doing to care for my grandfather. Their caring, compassion and knowledge of the heart made me want to learn all I could to care for people. After nursing school, I worked hard to learn all I could about caring for ICU patients and started in the Cardiovascular ICU 18 years ago. I love heart patients and still love caring for all critically ill patients. 

Susie Graham

Susie Graham

Susie Graham, Infusion/Cancer Center: I have to thank my mom for inspiring me to become a nurse. She was a nurse until she retired at the age of 63 from CMH. She was actually, at one time, my manager in OB. She was a very caring type of person and also believed in doing what’s right. These traits are very important to have when you’re a nurse. I like to believe that I have these traits, too. 

Kelly Cope

Kelly Cope

Kelly Cope, Med/Surg: I took Health Occupations in high school (Kendra Gohl was the teacher). The only thing I could think of to be was a masseuse. I job shadowed a blind masseuse and it was cool, but Kendra thought I’d enjoy shadowing a nurse on Med/Surg. I did, and I loved everything about it! Now, I am the nurse manager for the department I shadowed 13 years ago.

Bess Sully, Same Day Surgery: I have always loved being able to lend a helping hand to others and always like being helpful. 

Madilyn Davis, Med/Surg: I became a nurse because my grandfather lived with ALS for eight years before he succumbed to his disease. He lived on a ventilator for years and was in the hospital many times due to various complications. It amazed me how much the nurses helped my grandmother manage my grandfather’s care, especially when he went on hospice. I knew at a very young age I wanted to be a part of that and something greater than myself.

Amanda Van Stane

Amanda Van Stane

Amanda Van Stane, Emergency Department: I originally didn’t want to be a nurse. I had plans to become a vet because of my love for animals. However, I couldn’t stand the thought of putting beloved animals down, so I changed my course to nursing. I never wanted to be an emergency room nurse but I love my work family and thrive on the challenges/traumas that come to us.

Shannon Schutt, Anesthesia: I went to nursing school right after high school, graduated from Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, in 1994, practiced as a Med/Surg /Tele nurse for two years, then spent 13 years as an ICU nurse. I traveled for about five years in that time. I spent six years at OHSU in the Trauma/Neuro ICU before I went to graduate school in Florida. I was an ADN for 15 years prior to finishing my BSN at OHSU. Graduate school was from 2008-10, and I graduated with a master’s of science in nursing. I’ve been a CRNA for nine years.

Nancy Mazzarella-Tisch, Emergency Department: When I was 13 years old, I read about Helen Keller , Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. I knew then that when I grew up, I wanted to be a combination of those women! Specifically, what caught me about Clara and Flo was their sense of service, being at the sides of dying soldiers as they passed. Clara became “their” loved one holding their hands making sure they felt loved as they died. 

Denise McLellan

Denise McLellan, Pediatrics: Love helping people. 

Liisa Tischer, Imaging: After high school, I attended Clatsop Community College and earned my nursing degree in 1998. After that, I worked at St. John Medical Center for eight years on the Surgical Floor, then Same Day Surgery and Endoscopy. I helped implement the new Endoscopy Center for Pacific Surgical Center from 2006-16. Then I started at CMH as House Supervisor and now I work in Imaging as the procedural sedation nurse and am also placing picc lines. 

Carissa Poole, Hospice: My destiny to become an RN was determined from age 16, when I was hospitalized at CMH for a couple of emergency surgeries. I was very scared. The nurses that cared for me made me feel safe and gave me support. I left knowing when I “grew up” that I wanted to care for others the way I was cared for, so compassionately. In high school, I set this as my goal and started classes to complete this. I became an RN at age 21 and have enjoyed my career at CMH, even getting to work with some of these nurses who cared for me. Fun fact: I was also born at CMH. 

Lizzie Wiedmaier

Lizzie Wiedmaier

Lizzie Wiedmaier, Women’s Center/Pediatrics: My story is not glamorous. But what nurse’s story really is? I was a high school dropout. My high school biology teacher said I would never amount to anything if I got my GED. At 17 years old, I completed a CNA program to get a decent job. I worked in an Alzheimer’s/dementia lockdown unit and fell in love caring for people. I continued my education and received my LPN license. This is when my passion for maternal/child healthcare began. I worked in OB/GYN and Pediatrics for Indian Health Services in Fairbanks, Alaska, for five years. I moved to Portland in 2013 to finish my RN program and worked at a private practice OB/GYN office, raising three girls and commuted six hours for clinicals. After, I was accepted into a new grad RN Residency in Labor and Delivery, Nursery, Postpartum, Inpatient Peds and GYN Surgical. While completing my residency, I also completed my BSN. And here I am now. I started as the clinic RN for Women’s Center/Pediatrics in December of 2017, and in October of 2018 was promoted to RN clinic manager. I am currently in my second term of grad school to complete my master’s in nursing: leadership and management degree. My story isn’t glamorous, but it’s about perseverance, redemption and a whole lot of compassion.

Terri Miller, ARNP, PNP

Terri Miller, ARNP, PNP

Terri Miller, Urgent Care: I originally was a music education major and was introduced to the field of music therapy. It just wasn’t the right time for me to pursue this, but I knew at that point that I wanted to be in the healthcare field. I started as a CNA and worked my way up to nurse practitioner.

Trista Allison, Same Day Surgery: I had my daughter at age 18, and she was born with a disability that required a lot of medical care and hospitalizations. The nurses who helped me through those hard times made a lasting impression. It showed me that I would love to be that person, that little bit of light and hope for someone else during their hard times, someone to root for them and let them know they can do it, even if they feel like giving up.

Jamee Meier

Jamee Meier

Jamee Meier, Orthopedic Clinic: I became a nurse in order to be in the moments that defined people’s lives. The moment that new parents welcomed a first baby and realized that life was more beautiful than it was before, the moment when a loved one slipped into a peaceful sleep, where sorrow, pain and loss is left for the ones still behind, and freedom from the burdens of life is a gift, the moments where patients realize their health is not an intervention by a clinician, but a choice — that is more powerful than any pill, surgery or procedure. I choose to be a nurse, and more than that, nursing chooses me over and over in that if I find myself connecting with patients and being encouraged, inspired, challenged and engaged. My desire to help patients gracefully transition through their life appeals to me and brings me joy. I cannot think of a higher calling than to provide compassion while patients are perhaps at their lowest. I feel strong and courageous and able to help. Such a small word to describe what I want to do for the rest of my life — that is why I choose to be a nurse!

Jenny Wohosky, Cardiac Rehab: All I ever wanted to be was a nurse. I watched all the TV shows with nurses (Dr. Kildare, General Hospital, etc.) and read any books with nurses in them (Cherry Ames, RN). I wore out my nurse’s costume and only trick or treated as a nurse for all my Halloweens, ever. I finally became a nurse at age 29 through tough, tough times as a single mom. Working full-time was the culmination of a lifelong dream.

Rachel Davidson, CCU: I was younger when I had my daughter and had lots of complications. My OB/GYN at the time took lots of time to go over things with me. She said that I did an amazing job at understanding everything and would be a natural in the medical field. So because of her, I switched from animal science to nursing. 

 Andrea Tomlinson, Emergency Department: I witnessed the incredible kindness and compassion of nurses at the chemo infusion center where my mother was receiving treatment and realized I could be doing something more meaningful with my life!

Shaun Haner

Shaun Haner, Emergency Department: I planned to go into dentistry or pharmacy and was taking classes at Clatsop Community College starting my senior year of high school. I did an externship for dentistry at my dentist’s office, and he and his family said they thought I should go into nursing. I thought, “Well, I’ll apply and see what happens.” I did and got in (1989), and it has been great! I knew ER was what I wanted to do. 

Maria Warren, CCU: Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to care for and help people that are sick and not feeling well. I have this compassion, and I told myself that someday I would become a nurse. Helping and caring for people when they are feeling sick and seeing them get better is truly the best feeling ever. I love being a nurse! I was fortunate enough to take care of my mom before she passed away. My own mother … it was a blessing. 

Laura Parvi

Laura Parvi

Laura Parvi, Med/Surg: I never ever gave a single thought to becoming a nurse. Growing up, my dad wanted me to become a teacher, so I sought opportunities where I was a mentor, trainer or manager. I loved helping others and seeing them grow as they enriched their lives. It wasn’t until the youngest of my five boys started school that my husband asked me what I was going to do with my life. He suggested I become a nurse. At 40 years old, I thought there was no way I could go back to school! My husband didn’t work much and only wanted me to go to school to have more money. He was abusive, and the only reason I decided to go to nursing school was so I could support myself and get a divorce. So I supported my mom who lived with us (she was blind and had COPD) and my five boys, had a full-time job and off to school I went! I soon gained my confidence, discovered I was worthy of everything life had to offer and that I didn’t have to settle. Then I sought my freedom.

Sixteen years later, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I love being a nurse in my small, tight-knit community. Every day, I give 100% of my heart to my patients. I treat them all as if they were my family, with love, compassion and kindness. I love that the community and the patients’ loved ones trust me with their lives. These are people I grew up with, went to school with and have known all my life. The faith that they place in my hands I treasure and hold close to my soul. As long as my fire burns brightly, I will continue to give my all and reach out to make a difference in my patients’ lives. My patients fill my cup up with joy every day. They make me feel like I matter and that makes me feel alive and needed. When someone calls me their angel, I believe it. I am strong, and I am someone! I am a nurse!

Mihaela Lebo, Same Day Surgery: I got into nursing because I like helping people. I like to know the patients’ life stories, and I love to listen to their concerns and fears. I like to know their favorite foods and colors, too. I like to help a lot. 

Teri Banta

Teri Banta

Teri Banta, Family Birthing Center: While a junior at Seaside High School, I had a counselor suggest being a nurse since I was good at science. Thirty-six years later, I guess it was a good idea!

Paulina Cockrum

Paulina Cockrum, Oncology: I was always interested in helping others. As a fourth grader, a small group of friends and I visited the nursing home patients in my rural community of Vashon Island, Washington. I loved reading about famous nurses like Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton. In college, the nursing curriculum seemed doable in four years, which was all the college I wanted to do!

Ann Nilsson, Care Management: My parents enrolled me in nursing school when I was 20, because I had no direction! I found that I truly loved it after a year. I have done Peds, Med/Surg, ER, Home Health and Care Management. I have enjoyed it all.