Starting around age eight, whenever she had a snow day or holiday, Kelly Murray, CNA, would come to work with her mother Nicki Coates, RN, OCN, CNIII. Murray would volunteer to pass out candy and sit and talk with cancer patients.
Aside from a brief childhood dream of being a professional soccer player, which was thwarted by an asthma diagnosis, “being a nurse,” she said, was her “true dream.” Now, as a 21-year-old nursing student at Watts School of Nursing, she’s one year away from making her dream come true.
“That was a really great experience that kick-started my desire to become a nurse,” Murray said. “My mom and I are ridiculously close; we’re borderline twins. It would be the ultimate dream to work with my mom.”
Coates, 47, wanted to be a nurse since the seventh grade. A 26-year veteran of nursing, the Durham native started in chemotherapy infusion at an outpatient clinic, then moved over to Duke Cancer Center North Durham at Duke Regional Hospital.
She said she wouldn’t be anywhere else, but oncology.
“You see people on their worst day ever of their life, but you help people work through these issues and find their hope again,” Coates said.
Jordan Massey, RN, BSN, CNII, got a job as an infusion nurse at Coates' clinic straight out of nursing school — before even getting her feet wet on the hospital floor — almost unheard of in oncology. As a nursing student, Massey had shadowed Coates and the other nurses there. When she graduated from nursing school in 2013, the practice happened to be looking for a part-time nurse.
“We usually didn’t hire anyone who didn’t have some form of oncology experience, but Jordan impressed us so much as a student with her grasp of concepts and knowledge and her interest in oncology that it was a no-brainer; we needed help and she needed a job,” said Coates.
Massey stayed on for a few years, then briefly moved away to Virginia before joining Duke Regional Hospital as an emergency department nurse. One day last year, Coates ran into Massey in the ED. There was an opening at the medical oncology clinic where she now worked. Coates encouraged her to apply.
Massey said she liked the relationship-building she could have with patients in an ocology setting.
“It’s a very special bond and a true honor to be able to be there for our patients during this time,” she explained.
She got the job.
“I always tell Nicki it was my homecoming,” said Massey of her mentor. “Coming back to work in oncology felt like I was coming home. I know how Nicki works best and our personalities have always complemented each other."
Coates is really good at memorizing facts and book learning. Massey, who refers to Coates as her “better half at work,” is not. Neither is Coates' daughter who was, until recently, struggling with her nursing studies; particularly the chapter on fluids and electrolytes.
“My daughter Kelly and I would butt heads when we studied together,” said Coates.
“We have different learning styles,” said Murray.
So, it made perfect sense for Coates to step away and ask Massey, her mentee, to step in and tutor her daughter. Massey was happy to oblige.
“I have to know the why and the process behind something to be able to commit it to memory,” said Massey. “Kelly and I both learn better by relating the information to real-life scenarios. Our study time is filled with analogies and funny stories to help the concepts stick with her.”
Now Murray has two role models.
“My mom and Jordan are so dedicated to their patients,” said Murray, who speaks glowingly of them both. “For example, between Mom and Jordan, they have saved more than a million dollars for their patients this year alone in co-pays and drug costs.”
Hard acts to follow, but Murray said she has no doubt she’s up to the task. After rotating through several sections of the hospital including medical surgery and the wound center, she’s sticking with oncology for the opportunity for “hands-on” nursing.
“Everything has just kind of come full circle,” said Coates of her nursing family.