Nursing: Like Father, Like Son

Graduate Daniel Q. Smith and his father, Tim Smith. Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, University Communications

School of Nursing Has First Father-Son Alumni Combo

The wide-eyed 14-year-old boy had just seen his father save a life.

He had watched as his father worked, quickly but calmly, to use a defibrillator to literally shock a dying person back to life.

The experience sealed a resolve. “Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a nurse just like you.”

And that is exactly what Daniel Q. Smith did, following in his father’s footsteps to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing.

At graduation last week, Daniel and his father, Tim Smith, became the first father-son alumni combo of the nursing school.

“We’ve had plenty of mother-daughter, sister-sister, sister-brother and even mother-son combinations before, but this is our first father-and-son pairing of graduates,” said Lora Lacey-Haun, R.N., Ph.D., Dean of the school.

Daniel and Tim represent the changing face of nursing, and nursing education, in more ways than just gender. Both earned their bachelor’s degrees online from remote locations, as working nurses who started their careers with associate degrees earned at a local community college.

Dan works on the cardiovascular surgery team at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka, Kan.; father Tim works in the cardiac catheterization lab at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo. – the hospital wrecked by the powerful tornado of May 2011. The hospital is currently operating in a 110-bed modular facility until a new hospital, scheduled to open in March 2015, is ready.

Dan said earning the bachelor’s degree was always part of the plan, but he wanted to get started on his nursing career right away.

I always knew that eventually I’d go back for my BSN, it was just a matter of when,” Daniel said.  “The person who got me started on it was my dad. He’s been a tremendous mentor with my career. I am a very lucky person to have such a wonderful father to mentor me and guide me through one of the toughest and most rewarding careers ever known.”

Tim still remembers the day, years ago, when young Daniel watched him take charge in an emergency situation. 

“In the car on the way home, he asked about the defibrillator, what it does, how it works, and I explained it to him,” Tim said. “At that point, he said, ‘I want to be a nurse.’ “

Tim’s inspiration for a nursing career was very different from his son’s.

“I was working in the grocery business back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. That was a pretty good job then, it was a union job. Then the economy changed, and the future for the grocery business just didn’t look bright. A woman I worked with had enrolled in nursing school. One day she showed me her curriculum, and I said, you know, I just ought to do that.”

He earned his associate’s degree and worked as a nurse for 20 years before pursuing his bachelor’s degree.

“I decided to go to UMKC in the summer of 2010. Some of the other nurses at the hospital were telling me about the program and I always knew I needed to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing. That was the future of nursing. I enrolled, because the program allows you to continue your job and just fit it in.

“I liked the structure of it, the online experience – it was pretty intimidating at first; I had to learn how to upload files, but it doesn’t take too long and the teachers help you figure it out; then it becomes a lot easier. I liked the flexibility for when I wanted to go to class, when I wanted to submit assignments; there were many times I worked ahead so I didn’t feel any pressure. I’d recommend it highly.”

He recommended it to someone very important – his son.

“I’m very proud of him.  I feel like he chose a great career,” Tim said. “Now that he has a bachelor’s degree there are so many doors open for him that he can pursue from here. He can go military, pursue higher education. It’s very rewarding too because I don’t have to worry about him being productive in society or being able to support himself. It takes a lot of the burden off me in terms of worrying about his future.”

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