Gabriella Tucci gave her mom, Roseann, the mother of all compliments by following in her footsteps and becoming a pediatric nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Roseann is a nurse practitioner in MSK’s Survivorship Program. As a clinical nurse, Gabriella works on MSK’s pediatric inpatient floor. Here, the mother and daughter share what they’ve learned from each other on and off the job.
How did you get your start at MSK?
Roseann Tucci: I started as a new graduate nurse on an adult floor and then transferred to the pediatrics unit a year later. I also volunteered as a nurse at a sleepaway summer camp for children with cancer called Happiness Is Camping. Some MSK pediatric patients attend this camp. Since Gabriella was a young girl, she’s always attended with me.
Gabriella Tucci: Even before I worked as a counselor there, I would stay in the cabins with the other campers. I became friends with some of them, and it was nice to hear their success stories. I was also able to see my mother in action as a nurse.
Roseann: (To Gabriella) You always had an interest in nursing, but your specific desire to work in pediatrics developed, I believe, due to your summer camp experiences.
Gabriella: Especially with pediatric oncology. I always knew I wanted to become a nurse, but at camp I realized I wanted to work in pediatric oncology.
Roseann: And now she’s a nurse at the camp too!
Gabriella, when you were growing up, what did you observe about your mother’s career?
Gabriella: I knew she was a nurse and took care of sick children, but I never asked specific questions.
Roseann: I wanted Gabriella and her sisters to see me more as a working mom. I believe it is important for young women to have female role models who are dedicated and enjoy their work. The kids I worked with were very sick, and I didn’t want to share their struggles with my girls when they were young. But as they grew, I did share some stories. Patients are so very courageous and inspiring.
Gabriella: I didn’t understand or know firsthand those stories until I started working on the inpatient pediatric unit in 2012. In the beginning, it took time. It was difficult to see sick children suffer and to understand everything about pediatric oncology. But as the years go on, I feel more and more experienced and confident in my role.
Roseann, how did you feel when Gabriella told you she wanted to work here?
Roseann: I was very happy. She started at MSK as a nursing student for her internship, and she really liked it, so I said, “Why don’t you apply for a job when you pass your boards and graduate?” And she did.
Gabriella: During my internship I really bonded with the nurses and patients. There are some patients I’m treating who were here when I was an intern. You grow a bond with these families.
You both understand the rigors of pediatric oncology. How do you support each other?
Gabriella: I tell her everything. She is someone I lean on for support and guidance.
Roseann: Sometimes she’ll tell me about a diagnosis that she thinks has a poor prognosis, and I’ll tell her we follow quite a few survivors who have it. There’s always hope, and that’s what I’ve found in my job. Some survivor stories are truly miracles.
Gabriella: It’s amazing. Those survivor stories give me so much hope for my patients.
Roseann: Today in the Survivorship Clinic, I see patients who I actually took care of in the 1980s. You see them when they’re really sick, and now they’re all grown up. Some are working; some are married with their own children. And some are still battling the late effects of their disease and treatment. I also follow four or five patients who have become MSK nurses! My work is challenging and rewarding.
How have you seen treatments for pediatric cancer change over the years?
Roseann: Treatments were different back then. Now, the radiation is more precise; the chemotherapy is more tolerable. There’s a lot more immunotherapy coming our way. Survival rates for many pediatric cancers have increased. At MSK, we know what to look for in terms of late effects in childhood cancer survivors, and we understand what they’ve been through. (To Gabriella) Maybe as the years go on you’ll see that the patients do better with fewer side effects because the treatments have improved.
Gabriella: There are also more clinical trials. There are a couple of kids on our floor getting drugs no one’s ever had before because they just started as clinical trials.
What have you taught each other about nursing?
Roseann: I say to her, “You have to give patients hope.” The teenagers who want to sleep late, you should encourage them to get up if they’re able to. For example, if the teacher is coming at 12 o’clock, that gives them hope: “Maybe she thinks I really am going to get better and take those SATs next month.” Little things like that help. And sometimes she is able to tell her patients about the Survivorship Clinic, which also gives them hope.
Gabriella: I would say she taught me to be patient. It’s a very demanding floor. But I see how patient, kind, and compassionate she is. This is what she inspired me to be. She’s a role model not only for me as her daughter but for her patients and other nurses. I am so fortunate to have her as my lifelong role model, mentor, and most importantly, my mother.
Roseann: (To Gabriella) You’ve taught me about kindness. You go above and beyond for your patients. I am inspired by this new generation of nurses who choose this challenging career.