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Nursing Bonds: A Mother-Daughter Journey in Healthcare

Katina and Ashley Schwartzhoff next to a blue banner with a stethoscope design over it

When you grow up with a mother who's a passionate nurse, it’s hard not to be inspired. This is the story of Katina and Ashley Schwartzhoff, mother and daughter, who have dedicated their lives to nursing.

With a shared commitment to caring for others and a strong bond forged by their experiences, this mother-daughter duo is changing lives, one patient at a time.

Embracing Her Calling in Nursing

Katina Schwartzhoff with the text Katina SchwartzhoffKatina’s journey began in a poor rural community, where her innate curiosity – from a young age – about the human body ignited her interest in medicine. Working alongside her dad fueled her inquisitive nature even more.

“My father was a mechanic, and he would have me taking apart cars with him,” Katina said. “This was my first introduction of curiosity to the ‘why and how’ certain components placed together work the way they do.”

One of these “why and how” questions Katina thought of were “How does gas make a car run?” or, similarly, “What makes a heart keep pumping?”

Formal education was never prioritized in her family, but working — and understanding how things worked — was.

“I was the only child out of the three to graduate high school, let alone go to college,” she said.

Given her lifelong aspiration to become a nurse, Katina attended a local community college and her nursing education officially began.

Over the coming years, she would go on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and most recently, her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

A registered nurse (RN) for 28 years, Katina's held many roles in her profession. Now, she's a full-time nursing faculty member and team lead at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), teaching RN to BSN courses.

Following in Her Mother’s Footsteps

Ashley Schwartzhoff with the text Ashley Schwartzhoff“Growing up, my mom was a nurse, and my dad was in law enforcement, so I had the opportunity to hear stories from both of them and how they helped people,” Ashley said. “I think this was my initial inspiration to begin my journey in healthcare.”

She now works as an RN while pursuing her BSN at SNHU.

Ashley credits her mom as a great role model and source of advice throughout her nursing journey.

“She has given me a lot of advice over the years, and more than anything, she is always there to talk about my day,” Ashley said. “Seeing her go back to school so many different times … showed us anything is possible.”

Ashley emphasized the importance of planning and setting priorities to balance the demands of school, work and personal life.

“Being (that) I am working full-time and completing school for my BSN, this has been a difficult adjustment,” she said. “Planning out my weeks ahead of time has been helpful for me.”

A Shared Passion for Education and Growth

Katina at graduation with her familyKatina and Ashley recognize the value of continuing education throughout their nursing careers. Ashley plans to use her degree to become the best nurse she can be for her patients.

“I think the biggest thing is just continuing my education,” Ashley said. "Once I get closer to finishing my BSN, I may even decide to continue at SNHU for my master's degree."

Katina is dedicated to supporting her nursing students in their education.

"If I can encourage, push and provide a positive aspect to someone that needs support, that rewards me," Katina said.

In light of their experiences, Katina and Ashley have valuable advice for anyone considering a nursing career.

Ashley suggested starting with an entry-level role, such as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), to gain valuable experience and develop a strong foundation in patient care.

“I began my healthcare journey as a CNA and can say that made me want to become a nurse even more,” Ashley said. “It also gave me a good base on how to communicate with patients and learn how to care for someone.”

In addition to gaining hands-on experience as a PCA or CNA, Ashley encourages aspiring nurses to embrace the challenges of nursing school.

“Nursing school is hard, but I promise once you are finished, you will be very proud of yourself and have the rest of your life to make a positive impact on others,” she said.

Katina believes that passion, curiosity and creating a safe atmosphere are essential qualities for becoming a successful nurse.

“Always ask questions,” she said. “There is no way for anyone to know everything in nursing.”

Her advice for parents with children considering a career in nursing is to be patient and supportive while recognizing the emotional adjustment that comes with the profession.

“Help them seek the right nursing job,” she said. “There are so many areas to explore, and most areas new nurses don’t realize even exist.”

Family Roots in Nursing

Katina and Ashley have laid strong family foundations in nursing through their unwavering commitment and enthusiasm to help others.

Both stressed the significance of empathy and patience in their nursing roles.

Katina noted the difference this kind of care can make. She spoke of her experience with a hospice patient, whose concerns in her final hours were lessened by the supportive and peaceful environment created for her.

"We spent a lot of time together talking about comfort, peace and what scared her most," Katina said. "I realized it wasn't about caring for someone dying but instead creating an atmosphere of education and supporting her to be at peace."

Ashley highlighted the importance of understanding patients' emotions and situations. "As nurses, we provide not only medical care but also a comforting presence for patients to talk to," she said.

Their examples can inspire aspiring healthcare professionals, illustrating that success can be achieved through a blend of passion, empathy and dedication to ongoing education.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU nursing program that can best help you meet your goals.

Nicholas Patterson '22 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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