Becoming Co-Workers: A Special Mother and Daughter Experience

After all those days and nights of studying as a high school student, to undergraduate studies, and to recently receiving her first clerkship placement on her journey towards becoming a physician was a full circle moment for Mallory Pitts, a third-year medical student at Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine.

She was excited for this hands-on experience – to be immersed in different areas within the health-care system. “I was nervous to see where I was going to begin my first clerkship,” recalls Mallory. “When I opened the email and read mental health and addictions, Waterford Hospital, I couldn’t help but smile. My mom was now going to be my colleague!”

Mallory Pitts attending her white coat ceremony, an event for all medical students in the first year of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program.

Mallory Pitts attending her white coat ceremony, an event for all medical students in the first year of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program.

After spending 23 years in vascular surgery as a registered nurse, Sharon Anthony-Pitts had decided to make a change. Choosing to work at the Waterford Hospital was a natural fit for her. She started working at the acute admissions unit in 2017. “One of my favourite parts of the job is talking to and listening to my patients,” says Sharon. “My colleagues would often send me in to talk to the patients who were a bit quieter or sometimes withdrawn, and I was always able to find a way to connect with them.”

Then she learned that Mallory, her oldest child, would be joining their team.

“I was thrilled because I knew the amazing people she was going to get to learn from. Everyone here is very knowledgeable and caring. I knew she was going to learn a lot.”

Sharon and baby Mallory

Sharon and baby Mallory.

Destined to work in health care

Sharon knew from an early age that Mallory was interested in health care. She set her sights on medical school in her early years of high school and made sure to take all the required courses to allow her to study biochemistry as her undergraduate degree once she started university.

It was during that time that Sharon got some devastating news. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was one of the lucky ones and caught it early,” Sharon says.  “But I do think my diagnosis solidified Mallory’s desire to become a physician. She saw the amazing care and compassion I received from my team of doctors and nurses and she knew this was her calling.”

Mallory recalls many instances that pointed her in the direction of medical school. “I always found it amazing that patients who had my mom as their nurse, five and even sometimes 10 or more years ago, would come up to her in the mall or grocery store and say hi and share a story about how thankful they were for the care they received from her.” Mallory learned firsthand from her mother that compassion and caring for your patients must be at the forefront of the care we deliver.

Mallory and Sharon attending a school function

Mallory and Sharon attending a school function.

Working together

Starting a new job can be stressful and overwhelming. But when you’re starting a new job with your mom as your colleague, those new job jitters are not so bad.

“My mom explained what to expect – the little ins and outs that you don’t typically know before starting a new job. It was really helpful and put my mind at ease.”

To gain experience to various areas of health care, medical school students are required to complete eight rotations before graduating with a Doctorate of Medicine.  Mallory started her first rotation on the acute admissions unit at the Waterford Hospital when her mom was on her day off. Her day began with rounds, where she met the patients for whom she would be caring. After all the years of studying, she would finally be able to put her medical knowledge to use and, more importantly, assist in patient care – something that she feels comes naturally to her through her mother.

Sharon and Mallory at the acute admissions unit at the Waterford Hospital

Sharon and Mallory at the acute admissions unit at the Waterford Hospital.

“When I was a high school kid, my mom took me into the hospital on her day off for a “take your child to work day.” It was there that I saw first-hand the care and compassion she had for her patients, and how much that meant to her patients. It was very clear to me that this was what I wanted to do for a living after spending the day with mom at on the surgery unit at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital.”

There are many perks of having your mom working on the same unit as you, even something as simple as navigating the facility. “I was on one of my first shifts and I was paged to an area. Mom quickly told me how to get there and after she saw the blank stare on my face, she said, ‘okay come follow me.’ Another time I was working a really busy night. Mom knew first-hand that it would be impossible for me to get away to even grab a coffee, so her and dad dropped one off to me.”

Working together as mother and daughter has added a new dimension to their bond. They now relate to each other on a new level. “The health-care team working in the acute admissions unit is very collaborative,” Sharon shares. “If Mallory was working with me in another unit, we may not have worked so closely. I know how lucky we are to have this experience together.”

Since beginning her clerkship at the Waterford Hospital, Mallory has developed a deep interest in Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program. “It is really rewarding to see your patients begin to open up to you and make progress because of the care they received from the team.” She’s been able to apply lots from her studies, but more importantly learning firsthand through her work with the care teams.

It was obvious straight away that the mother and daughter duo possessed many of the same qualities that make for great health-care professionals, “aside from them both resembling each other, they both had this calm and caring way about them that allowed them to connect with our clients so effortlessly,” Susan Zbitnew, a patient care facilitator at the Waterford Hospital, who worked with them both shared. “It was so nice to get to see them work together and learn from each other.”

Mallory and Sharon enjoying their day off

Mallory and Sharon enjoying their day off.

As any mother can relate, you always want your children to be the best they can be, so when Sharon was assigned to the same patients as Mallory, it was especially rewarding.  She saw first-hand the care her daughter was able to provide to their patients . “I was so proud the first time we were both assigned to the same patient and I had the opportunity to read her patient notes. It was really surreal to think that my little girl had grown into this young professional.”

What’s next?

Mallory’s six-week clerkship will come to an end at the Waterford Hospital in early November and she will continue onto her next rotation in obstetrics and gynecology at the Health Sciences Centre.

Mallory and Sharon, mother and daughter and now colleagues!

Mallory and Sharon, mother and daughter and now colleagues!

As for Sharon, she will treasure the memories she and Mallory made of this unique experience. “I never would have thought I would get a chance to work alongside my daughter someday. It definitely was one of the highlights in my nursing care.” ■

This story was written by Brittany Mitchelmore, a communications manager with the Corporate Communications Department.

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