Wallace Thomson Hospital’s Brenda Mowdy, Jennifer O’Dell and Kristin Edwards are three generations of nurses from one family.
When Brenda Mowdy began a career at Wallace Thomson Hospital in 1980, she had no idea she was starting a family tradition.
“When I was little, I always wanted to do things for people who couldn’t do for themselves,” Mowdy said. “It means a lot when you can do that.”
Mowdy was hired as a third-shift nursing assistant in the newborn nursery. After one year, Joyce Carter — nurse manager at the time — suggested that Mowdy attend LPN (licensed practical nurse) school because there was a great need for them at the time. Mowdy — who was already married with three children — decided to take the advice, and she graduated from the Chester School of Practical Nursing in 1983 as vice president of her class. She has remained at Wallace Thomson ever since, accumulating 31 years of employment in the OB (Obstetrics Department) for the majority of the time. She has also worked in ICU and Med/Surg — about a year and a half each — and floated to other departments to help staff when needed.
“The nursery is my favorite place; I’ve always loved it,” Mowdy said. “The other areas were educational. I learned a lot, but they weren’t like the OB. The OB is my heart.”
When Mowdy started her career at Wallace Thomson, her youngest daughter Jennifer was three years old.
“She always wanted to come to work with Mama,” Mowdy said.
Mowdy said her daughter — now Jennifer O’Dell — worked at the hospital as a candy striper when she was a teenager.
“I worked third shift, and if she didn’t have school the next day she would stay all night,” Mowdy said. “She loved talking to the older patients; she got attached. I knew at that point she would be a nurse.”
O’Dell remembers talking with patients who were at the hospital as part of a program called Swing Bed in which patients would stay until a bed was available at a nursing home.
“Had it not been for that program I might not have been a nurse,” she said. “I have really great teenage memories from the hospital. I would rather have been there than out with my friends.”
O’Dell came to work at Wallace Thomson in July 2009 after graduating from Spartanburg Community College in May. She was on the National Dean’s List and was a member of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA). She went to work on the Telemetry unit and in Med/Surg.
O’Dell also credited her mother in part for her career decision.
“She definitely inspired me because she has always been such a caring person; I’ve never seen her be mean to anybody,” she said. “But the volunteering was what really did it.”
In July 2010, O’Dell decided to explore other options in nursing and went to work for Gentiva home health care company.
“Gentiva is an awesome company, but I’m a very fast paced person,” she said. “I missed that environment when I left. I feel like the Emergency Room is in my blood.”
During July of this year — one year later — O’Dell came “back home” to Wallace Thomson as an Emergency Department nurse. O’Dell is also a member of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).
“I don’t foresee ever leaving that environment again,” she said.
O’Dell said she also enjoys the ER because each day is different from the last.
“It’s not just one type of thing you see,” she said. “You never know what’s going to walk in.”
O’Dell and her husband both currently work third-shift jobs and Mowdy — sympathetic to the work of a third-shift nurse — keeps O’Dell’s children while she is working.
“Wallace Thomson Hospital is such a big part of my childhood memories,” O’Dell said. “I would like to be a part of the hospital as long as my mom has.”
The nurses in the family do not stop there, however. Kristin Edwards — Mowdy’s granddaughter and O’Dell’s niece — is also a nurse at Wallace Thomson, currently working in the Med/Surg department.
Edwards graduated from USC Upstate: Mary Black School of Nursing with honors last May. She was the president of the Student Nursing Association, a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Gamma Beta Phi honor societies and SGA Nursing Senator. Edwards received the Life Scholarship annually and the Ambulatory Nursing Scholarship her senior year. She completed her clinical preceptorship in the ICU at WTH and was hired shortly after to work in ICU.
“Growing up, I have always known my grandmother to be an OB nurse,” Edwards said. “After my freshman year in college I decided to give the nursing major a try because — as many college freshmen are — I was unsure of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I’m so glad I decided to become a nurse; it is one of the most rewarding professions there is.”
Edwards said she is happy to join in the tradition started by her grandmother and continued by her aunt.
“When I was graduating from high school, my aunt decided to go back and get her nursing degree,” she said. “I always heard them talking ‘nurse talk’ after church or at family dinners.”
“Now I can join in on the ‘nurse talk’ at family gatherings and gross everyone out at the dinner table!” she laughed.
Mowdy said she is extremely proud to have her daughter and granddaughter follow in her footsteps.
“I think they both turned out to be good nurses,” she said. “I’ve heard lots of compliments on both of them.”
Mowdy also offers advice to her daughter and granddaughter, as well as anyone else who is interested in becoming a nurse.
“I never want to hear them say, ‘That’s not my job,’” she said. “So many people say, ‘I didn’t go to school to empty bed pans,’ but anything to do with care for a patient is a nurse’s job.”
Mowdy said experienced nurses should also take responsibility and help those who are just starting out.
“If somebody else needs teaching, I don’t hesitate because I had to learn at one time,” she said.
Mowdy, O’Dell and Edwards all said they try to take care of patients like they are members of their family.
“I try to take care of my patients like it was my mother or me laying there,” Mowdy said. “When my time comes, the good Lord will send somebody to take care of me.”