Ask a nurse what inspired them to enter the field, and chances are they’ll share stories about their nursing relatives. Those stories could range from the impact of teaching essential health care lessons to tales about helping patients when they needed that human connection the most.
Several current School of Nursing students and their alumni parents share what it means to be multi-generational nurses under the same roof. While they all come from different backgrounds, they are all motivated by the same desire as their parents: saving lives in a rewarding career.
Katie, Angela, and Jon Dimaya
Katie Dimaya is officially a first-semester UNLV nursing student, but she’s been training for the job her whole life. Her mother, Angela Dimaya, is a labor and delivery nurse at St. Rose Dominican Hospital's Siena Campus, and her father, Jon Dimaya, is a rapid response/critical care nurse at Sunrise Hospital. Both graduated from UNLV School of Nursing in 2000, and whether they’re on the hospital floor or at home, they can (and usually do) turn everyday moments into health care lessons for their kids.
Katie grew up already passionate about community health sciences, but that was bolstered through Jon and Angela’s nursing stories and hands-on lessons. Whether folding a bed, explaining the anatomy and physiology behind a cough, or properly identifying a seizure, Katie’s mother and father rarely miss a potential teaching moment for their children.
“Family members and friends come to my parents saying [they] have a rash, and they'd say, ‘Katie, come look at this. Let me show you how we would do this in the hospital,’" Dimaya said. "Or my brother cuts his foot open, and [they say], ‘Katie, come look at this. This is how you take care of this in the hospital.’ There's really no stopping.”
Nursing in the Dimaya family is multi-generational. Jon’s mother was an orthopedic nurse who liked to spin nursing yarns, too, but her lessons were more preventative. Jon says she would bring up serious sports-related accidents she saw at the hospital to dissuade him from doing those same activities. Jon says this made him more impressed with his mom’s job.
“You hear stories like this, and then it made me realize how cool my mother was in the things that she did,” he said.
Now that Katie is enrolled as a full-time student, the at-home lessons are more about technique and skill, like practicing checking vitals on Jon and Angela. At times, they’ll make things more difficult to simulate real-life patient situations, including constant talking and uncooperative movements.
“We give her the worst-case scenario when she's just trying to do the basics,” Jon said.
An early brush with COVID
In June 2020, Katie witnessed their parents’ nursing skills taken to the extreme. Jon was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was isolated in his bedroom for two weeks, with Angela the only one going in to treat him. But after two weeks, Jon’s condition worsened.
“I could just see his deterioration despite everything he was doing, that I was doing for him,” Angela said. “You could just see it slowly killing him.”
She and Jon decided he had to go to the hospital, a difficult decision during those first few months of the pandemic.
“We were sitting in the bedroom,” Jon said. “She was gowned up, and I couldn’t kiss her or hug her. I said, ‘You have to take me to the hospital.’ She broke down and said, ‘Can I come into the hospital with you? I said, ‘No, you just drop me off in the ER and that's it. If this is the last time I tell you I love you, I want to tell you with my own voice.”
Jon eventually recovered, but still has a lingering cough one year later. He praises Angela for helping keep him alive.
“I made it only because the grace of my wife and our knowledge in nursing,” he said. “If I was a lay person, if I didn't have help, if I lived by myself, without one piece of that puzzle, there's no way I would've made it.”
The Dimayas’ shared passion for nursing has motivated them to create their own podcast on nursing lessons on the frontlines called “Nurses Eat Their Young.” It’s primarily aimed at young nurses just starting out.
Jon maintains the podcast isn’t to sidestep what’s taught in nursing school, however.
“That’s how we bond,” Katie said. “He always gives me pointers. He loves teaching people about health and I thought, ‘Let's record it.’”
Aside from applying their professional knowledge to the podcast, Jon and Angela also showcase their abilities as parents. Angela cites the title of the podcast as a reference to those older, experienced nurses who push back negatively instead of mentor, something she experienced as a young nurse.
“I started to question why nurses feel the need to eat their young,” Angela said. “Why can't we all be more accepting? I think it's important that more nurses adopt that attitude, that it's not OK to be rude or belittle younger, more inexperienced nurses.”
Trisha and Mario Godoy
Both Trisha Godoy and her father, Mario, took unusual paths to nursing school. Trisha enrolled at UNLV after graduating high school at age 15. Her father graduated from UNLV in 2009 after already spending more than a decade as a physician overseas.
Now Trisha is a third-semester nursing student, while Mario is a Las Vegas nurse practitioner in primary care. But regardless of how different their paths started, they both share a common passion.
Mario arrived in the United States after spending 12 years practicing medicine as a doctor in the Philippines. Relocating afforded his family better opportunities at the time, but what made him choose Las Vegas was a special UNLV program offered for Filipino doctors to help transfer their skills.
With a father who started in medicine and switched to nursing, it’s no surprise Trisha became interested in health care. She spent so much time in her father’s hospital in the Philippines, it felt like her second home.
“We would visit him and I would stay over (in resident quarters),” Trisha said. “I could see the patients and some of the nurses would take me around, so I had a general idea what nursing and what the medical field was like.”
Trisha originally wanted to be a doctor when her family moved to the U.S., but during high school, she became fascinated in multiple areas like psychology and forensics, and wasn’t sure medicine was the right path.
“(My dad) sat me down and said nursing has all these different fields and branches,” she said. “I just thought it was one set path. He said in nursing, you could test and see what you want to do.”
Drawing on experience
Since becoming a full-time nursing student, Trisha says her father has been incredibly helpful, especially with comparing face-to-face teaching with online learning.
“I'd go to him and say, ‘What was it actually like?’" she said. “He's great at explaining what things are like in-person and how to interact with patients.”
It’s that emphasis on patient care that Trisha cites as one of her father’s biggest pieces of advice.
“I'm trying my best to tell her you can make a lot of difference that way. It's not only theoretical,” Mario said. “There's this non-financial remuneration of that satisfaction when you help a patient get relief or somebody who's already about to die and you were able to help them live. If you're able to help them, it’s not only your salary, but you're satisfied because you're able to do something you really like.”
Mario admits he feels it was harder for nursing students during his time. There are more online study tools available to help modern students and, compared to what it was like in the Philippines, American students have a much easier time obtaining textbooks and scrubs.
But he also feels Trisha is in a prime position with plenty of opportunities in front of her, thanks to the impact UNLV made on his family, from assisting their transition to the U.S. to helping guide Trisha and other nursing students through remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also understands as a young student, Trisha may change her mind about nursing, but like his parents did with him, Mario will keep encouraging her to find the right path.
“If she wants to go in another direction at least we were able to guide her into a position that she can earn while studying more for what she really wants,” Mario said.
Amy Drake and Alaysia Robinson
Alaysia Robinson didn’t aspire to be a nurse like her mother, Amy Drake. She used to watch her years ago, studying at the dining room table seemingly all the time, thinking her mom was going overboard.
Now Robinson studies at the same dining table as a nursing student. Her mother graduated from UNLV in 2017 and works as a NICU nurse.
Robinson lauds her mom for inspiring her to pursue the same career, though she freely admits she originally wanted to stay away from health care.
“I didn't do well in science in high school. I knew nursing and health care were all science and I thought, ‘No, I'm never doing that.'”
She was headed toward law, but as a college freshman she had a change of heart and was unsure where to go next. At this time, Drake started in the bachelor of science in nursing program, and her daughter soon saw a different side of nursing.
“I saw her coming home after clinicals, glowing and talking about patients she took care of, just the experience of it all. I was like, ‘OK, she is onto something. I want to do something like that,” Robinson said.
The spark was there, but Robinson still wasn’t entirely on board. She received her certified nursing assistant license from College of Southern Nevada to try nursing out before fully committing and applying to UNLV.
“Seeing (my mother) do it, if she didn’t, I would still be trying to figure out what I want to do,” Robinson said. "I'm constantly trying to pick her brain about anything she remembers.”
One key thing, Drake said, is to find balance between studying and taking time to recharge.
“I didn't take a break, didn't take time out for myself. I missed out on moments,” Drake said. “If I see she's frustrated or overwhelmed with an upcoming test, I just have to be tough and tell her to go to the gym for a couple of hours — or sleep for a couple of hours, set your alarm, and then regroup. She takes my advice, and I think she's having a lot healthier experience in nursing school.”