My mentorship story began over 20 years ago when I was working as an oncology nurse and looking to provide mentorship and friendship to a child in my community. I first met Eliza, an 11-year-old, red-headed girl who helped care for her sick sister, when we were matched together through the Big Brother, Big Sister (BBBS) program. I was also a redhead, so I knew we were a match made in heaven.
In our early match years, Eliza and I had a lot of fun together—bowling, arts and crafts, movies, sledding, concerts, cooking, and so much more. Eliza enjoyed the BBBS program so much that she decided to enroll in a school-based version so she could be a Big to a Little in kindergarten while she was a Little with me as her Big. That year, we were awarded the BBBS Match of the Year to recognize our unique contributions to the program.
In addition to having fun together, Eliza and I learned a lot about each other. Eliza saw me as someone who could provide guidance to her differently than her parents could. I saw that it was my role to nurture her and help her grow into a mature adult. I was with her when her sister passed away. It isn't fair for a teenager to have to live through such grief, so I'm glad I could be there to support her.
When Eliza was in high school and deciding what to study in college, she was clear that she didn't want to be a nurse because she thought I worked too much. She had a hard time deciding what she wanted to do and after a few stops and starts, she soon realized that she should stop resisting studying nursing. She was able to recognize that she had enjoyed caring for her sister and had a natural talent for providing compassionate care to others. We talked a lot about this, and she decided to enroll in an associate degree nursing program.
While she was in school, Eliza worked as a certified nursing assistant on the inpatient unit where I used to work. This validated her thinking that she wanted to be a nurse. However, she was clear that she wanted to do it her way and she didn't want to be an oncology nurse like me. That didn't matter to me, I just saw that she had a natural talent to care for others and I wanted to nurture the strength she possessed.
Eliza was very successful in her schooling and moved away to Florida to work after graduation. We stayed in touch and when she returned to New England the following year, we were able to talk about her going back to school to finish her bachelor's degree. Because she was young, she wasn't sure she wanted to spend so much more time in school, but she trusted me that by having a BSN, she would have more doors open for her.
While working on an inpatient oncology and cardiac floor, Eliza was able to continue to develop her clinical skills and took on more leadership roles by participating in committees and serving as a charge nurse. We shared a few laughs that this was exactly the kind of work I had been doing that she was trying so hard to resist. My heart was overflowing when she shared that she really enjoyed it and she was happy we had talked about these opportunities and how to make them happen.
Eliza enrolled in a bachelor's degree program and then started working as a nurse in an outpatient oncology clinic. She really was following in my footsteps! Personally, I didn't care what specialty she chose, I was just overjoyed that she found her passion and was successful in her career choice.
Around that same time, Eliza met her husband and now has two beautiful children. She completed her BSN and passed her certification in oncology nursing exam. She continues to work at the outpatient oncology clinic as an oncology nurse navigator. Our professional worlds have intersected once again as her clinic has a collaborative relationship with the organization where I work. This means that we share clinical resources to support patient care. Eliza and I frequently reach out to each other—both personally and professionally—and, at this point, are mentors to each other.
I often say that I was a mentor to Eliza when she needed me most as a kid. Now, she's a mentor to me! She teaches me a lot about work-life balance and I'm able to continue to serve as a mentor to her professionally. We were two redheads matched together over 20 years ago, but now nothing can keep us apart. We're both oncology nurses, working to provide compassionate, quality care to our patients. The bond that got us to this point is very strong and it will carry us for many years ahead.
Without the mentorship that the BBBS program provided, we never would've had this opportunity, but our continued professional and personal mentorship is what makes it most meaningful. I'm so incredibly grateful for my Eliza and all that we've been able to accomplish together. I know there are many more wonderful memories to be made in the future. Eliza is one of my greatest treasures and I'm so thankful that I was able to be a mentor to her as she found her way to oncology nursing, despite trying so hard to resist it!