Like Mother Like Daughter

These nursing duos have both a career and family in common

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Kayla Wood works as a senior registered nurse of surgical services and oversees the recovery room at Oswego Hospital. Her mom, Kelly Montagna (right), is also a registered nurse with Oswego Health. “My mother won’t brag about herself, but I refer to her as Florence Nightengale reincarnated,” Wood says. “She is one of the best nurses I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Pamela Haines, registered nurse with Upstate transplant program at University Hospital, originally wanted to become a professional photographer.

However, her father talked her out of it, thinking that it wasn’t a good path for her.

Her high school guidance counselor assessed Haines and said she ranked high in her ability to work with people. Her uncle’s career as a nurse along with her mother’s position in a business office of an extended care facility helped shape her career ambitions.

She started working as a nurse’s aide a few summers and decided to go to nursing school, including getting an associate degree from Alfred State, a nurse from SUNY Upstate and a master’s in management from Keuka College.

“I wanted to have more opportunity in the profession at Upstate,” Haines said. “I also wanted to be able to care for patients more thoroughly and have the critical thinking necessary to provide better nursing care and collaborate with physicians and other members of the healthcare team.”

Katie Walburger, her daughter, observed her mother’s career trajectory and education, which Haines thinks influenced her path, as she also began as a licensed practical nurse and later registered nurse. They both have worked in Upstate’s pediatric intensive care unit, where Walburger now works.

“Listen to what your child is telling you,” Haines advises parents whose children may be interested in nursing. “Guide them in their thinking and their exploration of career choices. Support them in their decision-making without being the driver or making it a forced-upon decision. Ultimately, it is their decision. Especially in nursing, we want people to go into the profession for the right reason.”

She expressed pride in Walburger and shared that many people who worked with her in the 1980s speak highly of her — words that “are very nice to hear firsthand from people you’ve known for decades.”

Walburger freely admits that her mother was “a pretty big influence. Growing up watching her nursing made me want to be a nurse.”

She earned her associate degree at BOCES Cortland and graduated from Morrisville State with her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I enjoy being not only able to provide care to patients but interacting with families and caring for them as well,” Walburger said.

She encourages anyone seeking an education in nursing to use family as a resource to get through school.

“I was always asking my mom when there were things I didn’t understand,” Walburger said.

She likes working with some of the same doctors Haines worked with years ago.

“People always speak highly of her and that makes me proud of the kind of nurse she is,” she added. “I look up to her and don’t want to disappoint her.”

Kelly Montagna, a registered nurse with Oswego Health, also felt inspired to become a nurse from an early age.

After reading about Florence Nightingale in fourth grade, she knew that was the career for her. Unlike Haines, her father discouraged her from pursuing a nursing career. It wasn’t until years later that she returned to the idea and earned her associate degree and later bachelor’s degree through Cayuga Community College.

She works at Oswego Health’s urgent care facility in Fulton and oversees their urgent care in Central Square.

Kayla Wood, Montagna’s daughter, works as a senior registered nurse of surgical services and oversees the recovery room at Owego Hospital. But originally, she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She had worked in a few jobs in community health education to use her SUNY Oswego bachelor’s degree in wellness management with a minor in health sciences. But “I wasn’t very happy doing that,” she recalled.

She was required to intern as part of her senior experience. Since her mom is a nurse, going to the hospital seemed practical. That experience changed her mind and nursing now seemed to be a means of educating the community.

She recalled as a child seeing her mother working on “1,001 care plans” after hours.

“She’d leave in her scrubs and not come back until we were in bed,” Wood said.

Nursing appeared pretty arduous then, but seeing it firsthand made her realize that she would enjoy working in nursing. She enrolled in Cayuga Community College and later returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree.

Wood finds her mother’s career especially inspiring now that she is a nurse.

“My mother won’t brag about herself, but I refer to her as Florence Nightengale reincarnated,” Wood said. “She is one of the best nurses I’ve ever seen in my entire life. She is everything that every nurse should aspire to be. She is so smart and knowledgeable and is such a good leader and so compassionate. I try to channel my ‘inner Kelly.’”

Montagna encourages parents who are nurses to ask their aspiring children why they want to get into nursing. The pay can be good. However, “that shouldn’t be their motivation,” she said.

Wood feels like she has very big shoes to fill, which can be intimidating. However, she has always felt that her mom expects her to only be her own person, not a nurse exactly like herself.