"When you become a St. Jude patient, you become part of our family. We are all in it together."
Sommer Brannan, St. Jude nurse
Some people say that nursing runs in families. For one particular family of nurses, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital plays a central role.
As a nursing student, Anna Rohr met nurse Beth Baker at St. Jude. Today, that former nursing student is Anna Baker, a nurse practitioner at St. Judeand Beth’s daughter-in-law. Anna’s mother, Pam Rohr, and Beth’s daughter, Sommer Brannan, are also St. Jude nurses.
Pam Rohr (Left to right), Anna Baker, Beth Baker and Sommer Brannan
The four women share a deep bond as members of the St. Jude family. For Sommer, 27, family is the heart of the hospital. “We are all like family at St. Jude. When you become a St. Jude patient, you become part of our family. We are all in it together. We treat all patients and their families like they are our own family.”
Now 52, Beth recently marked 19 years at St. Jude. “I love that everybody is all in at St. Jude,” she said. “Everybody is dedicated and gives 100%. We are all in it to win it.”
Beth, who has worked in almost every St. Jude clinical department, has seen great progress in treatment and survival rates during her years at the hospital. She often serves as a preceptor, training nursing students like Anna, who came to St. Jude from Johns Hopkins University.
Nurse Heather Mills (left) demonstrates a clinical procedure with Nurse Beth Baker.
To celebrate the last day of Anna’s rotation, Beth invited the entire Baker family and some St. Jude staff to a local restaurant. That is where Anna met her future husband, Beth’s son Nick. They were married in 2012 and have two children.
For Beth, having so many family members at St. Jude is like icing on a cake. “I think we instinctively know if one of the others is having a bad day,” Beth said. “We understand how the other one feels.”
Growing up in New Jersey, Anna knew she wanted to work in the medical field. She developed an interest in pediatric oncology in college and, when her parents moved to Memphis, Anna saw an opportunity to arrange a nursing rotation at St. Jude.
Nurse Anna Baker pictured with her husband and two daughters. Photo courtesy of Maryrose Brame Photography.
She immediately noticed the hospital’s family-centered focus. “I was blown away by the resources St. Jude provides to the patients and their families. Everything from food and lodging to medications and medical expenses are provided,” said Anna, now 30.
She applied for a full-time position and was offered a job in the bone marrow transplant unit, where she now works as a nurse practitioner. “I don’t know that you could pick a more joyous and happy place to work,’’ Anna said. “You are caring for a child with a terrible disease, but they are smiling and pushing through it.”
Pam Rohr has been both a nurse and a mother for more than 30 years, and each of those roles has informed the other. Her career in pediatric nursing ranged from school nurse to work at a children’s hospital near their former New Jersey home. This was the same children’s hospital where her youngest child, Jenni Rebecca, was treated for the skin cancer melanoma. Jenni died at age 14, when her sister Anna was a senior in high school.
“It was awful,” said Pam, recalling the loss of her daughter. “That is why Anna wanted to go to work in pediatric oncology.”
After joining the St. Jude staff, Anna encouraged her mother to apply. Pam hesitated, thinking that working in pediatric oncology would be difficult after the loss of her youngest. But she has now been a St. Jude nurse for six years. She works as a sedation nurse in Diagnostic Imaging.
Pam Dotson (left) presents Nurse Pam Rohr with the Employee of the Quarter award.
Pam Rohr (second from right) with her nursing colleagues after receiving the Employee of the Quarter award.
“I love it. St. Jude offers enough resources that you are able to spend a lot of time one-on-one with the families,” she said. “I go home fulfilled every day. Whatever we can do to make their lives a little better every day, that is good.”
Pam said she never shares her personal story with St. Jude families. Instead, she listens. “Many, many parents say to me, ‘You just seem to get it.’ You can give so much to them. I absolutely love what I do.”
The youngest of four children, Sommer said she grew up at St. Jude. She was still in elementary school when her mother went to work at the hospital. Sommer’s father would often drop her off in the St. Jude lobby on his way to work so that Beth — just completing her night nursing shift — could take her to school.
“I remember seeing how much my mom loved going to work. Every day was a brand new day,” said Sommer, who soon realized that nursing would be her profession, too.
She has worked at St. Jude for five years. Although the nurses in her family all work in different sections of the hospital, they often have the opportunity to work with one another. Serving the St. Jude mission is “something unbelievably special we all have with each other.”
St. Jude nurses with their Daisy Awards in nursing — (L to R) Ron Hardin, Kari Lahmon, Sommer Brannan and Shelley Jones.
When Beth, who often works in intensive care, sends patients to the solid tumor unit where Sommer works, she gives them a special message to ask for “Butter Bean,” Sommer’s nickname, and the patients love it, she said.
“Working here has always just been a dream of mine,” Sommer said. “I never wanted to work anywhere else.”
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