By Brittney Chiuppi
As a nurse at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for 33 years, Margie Kjellin has met many people along her journey. However, her favorite coworker to see in the hospital hallways is her daughter, Kallen.
“Whenever I see her, I always stop for a hug and a kiss. If someone is with me, I introduce her as one of my favorite people,” Margie said.
After eight years at St. Jude, Kallen said that Margie occasionally gets recognized as “Kallen’s mom.”
Kallen started her nursing career at St. Jude working the night shift in the Solid Tumor unit, but now works in the Nursing Education and Professional Development Department as nursing professional development practitioner for the Outpatient Clinics and Infusion Center.
“It means so much to know that no matter where you work in the institution, you can make an impact,” Kallen said.
Margie said that she admires Kallen’s kindness and work ethic. She doesn’t get to interact with Kallen often at work, but she frequently hears positive feedback about her.
“An Infusion Center nurse just recently made the connection that we were related. He could not stop gushing about how much he respected Kallen. It makes me very proud that she is a strong woman of integrity and a great nurse,” Margie said.
Path to nursing
Kallen didn’t always know that she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps to be a nurse, but there were early signs that the medical profession was right for her.
At age 10, Kallen quickly reacted one afternoon when her 6-year-old brother severely cut his hand while playing outdoors. Margie, a former trauma nurse, was temporarily stunned by the sight of her own child's blood. Kallen calmed both her mother and brother, grabbed a washcloth from the kitchen and carefully wrapped David's finger.
"That is when I realized that I wasn't afraid of blood or that I wasn’t easily stressed out," Kallen said.
Looking back, Kallen said she’s thankful for her mother’s guidance in exploring this career path.
“She was the reason I wanted to be a nurse and encouraged me along the way. Our connection really grew when I became a nurse,” Kallen said.
Bonding during the pandemic
Even during the peak of the COVID-19 shutdowns, Margie and Kallen still carved out quality time together.
“We were getting swabbed every four days here, so we knew we were safe. We were together almost every weekend,” Kallen said.
With Margie’s house under renovation at the time, they spent many weekends picking out fixtures and paint colors.
“Spending time with Kallen kept me distracted and sane,” Margie said.
What St. Jude means to them
As Director of Nursing Clinical Excellence, Margie is honored to support nurses at all levels to achieve excellence in patient outcomes and nursing professional practice. She credits her mentors and leaders who have helped her learn and advance at St. Jude.
“It is a great time to be a St. Jude nurse. St. Jude nursing has been proactive in recruitment and retention and has maintained patient family centered care and nursing excellence as a top priority,” Margie said.
When Kallen prepares to leave for the day, she often stops by Margie's office to talk or make dinner plans. Both are thankful for the opportunity to work together, to share their passion for patient care and to help each other grow professionally.
"I am increasingly thankful to St. Jude because it brings us closer together in a way no other place could," Kallen said.