A Family Tradition: Three Generations of Nursing Care
Aug 13, 2021 Nicole Levine
Nurse Destiney Davis jokes that her family's favorite tradition is not being traditional.
"We're always a wild card," she says. "Sometimes we feel like a beach day, the week after that it might be a backyard cookout and UNO. But we always stay on our toes."
The one exception, perhaps, is the family's tradition of providing care at Cedars-Sinai. Destiney is the third generation in her family to build a career in the nursing field. Her mother, Michelle Williams, is the Nursing Department's executive director for the Medical Division. Michelle's mother, Cathy Williams, now retired, previously worked as a clinical partner.
"I'm very proud of them. To see my dreams come to life through them is really astonishing to me."
Cathy aspired to become a registered nurse but paused her studies to raise her children. She was a nursing assistant earlier in her career.
"I'm very proud of them," she says of her daughter and granddaughter. "To see my dreams come to life through them is really astonishing to me."
Michelle was still a nursing student when she joined Cedars-Sinai in 2003, then continued working as a new graduate resident in 2005. She specialized in cardiac nursing and climbed the ranks to become a leader in the medical division.
Destiney more closely followed her grandmother's path, first working as a clinical partner in 2015. Clinical partners provide care to patients under the direction of a registered nurse—often taking vital signs, assisting with equipment and helping patients do tasks they might be struggling with, such as eating, dressing or bathing.
At one point, she considered medical school, but craved the interactions and relationships more common between nurses and patients. The only area of nursing she wasn't interested in was her mother's specialty—cardiac nursing.
"Then I ended up doing the one thing I said I'd never do," she says.
During her training, she followed an anesthesiologist and developed a passion for critical care nursing.
"Destiny was always my 'Why?' child," Michelle says. "If I give her an answer to a question, her next question is, 'Why?'"
Michelle invited Destiney to visit her on the cardiac unit, to observe the different types of equipment, familiarize herself with the rhythms displayed on various machines and learn what they mean. Other nurses on the unit would quiz her, supporting her education in addition to her formal studies.
Three nurses, three philosophies
While all three women are driven by a desire to help people back to health, they each have a different approach.
Cathy looks to make a human connection and likes to do things the tried-and-true way. For example, when she was still working, she'd rather help a patient wash with good old soap and water than rub them down with a gel.
Michelle gets excited about trends in how the profession is changing.
"I always try to think ahead and see where we're headed as a profession, so I can prepare myself and get ahead of that curve and prepare our nurses to do the same," she says.
Michelle is especially happy in her current role because she feels she has a chance to guide change in the organization.
"I'm a change agent," she says. "I also like to be able to push people to reach their maximum potential. I help them break down the misconceptions they have about themselves and what they think they can do. I've learned you can do a whole lot more if you have the resources, the confidence and the opportunity to do so."
In that way, her leadership style mirrors how she helped her daughter find the confidence to become a cardiac nurse.
Destiney is the scientist of the bunch. She thrives on the details, always seeking to understand how every treatment and practice works.
"For it to all make sense to me so that I can teach it to my patients, I need to know how something works and why it works that way," she says.
Michelle and Cathy live together in Fontana with Michelle's four younger children. Destiney lives just a few blocks away.
Before any of them worked at Cedars-Sinai, Michelle gave birth to all her children there, and appreciated how much the care and advice of the nurses helped her as a new mom. When she joined a state program looking to expand the nursing workforce in Los Angeles, she was excited there was an opening for her at Cedars-Sinai.
Destiney regularly works with patients who had heart surgery, as well as those who are waiting for or received a heart transplant. She says sometimes her unit reminds her of her own family—they might sometimes have disagreements, but they share the same goals and values.
"We come together and support each other in times of need," Destiney says. "We are able to do some awesome work and have amazing patient outcomes."
The support of family—both personal and professional—makes all the difference.
"I rely on my family, especially my mom," Destiney says. "She's been my rock in my work. I got to witness the work my mother and grandmother have done and reflect on where it all started. Now being someone who is doing the job and following in their footsteps, it's been an incredible journey."