By Adam Raider
A 2014 recipient of the Norma J. Brandt Nursing Scholarship, Masonicare’s Suzanne Timbro remembers how her mother’s love and sacrifice inspiredher to pursue a career in nursing.
Joyce Russell was working as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) when her fiancée, Robert Condron, departed for Japan to serve in the Korean War. Although she had hoped to continue her education to become a registered nurse (RN), she had to make a difficult choice when Robert returned: get married or go back to school. She chose to get married and continue as an LPN. When Suzanne was born in 1964, Joyce stopped practicing her nursing outside the home to be a full-time mom.
“I didn’t really get to see my mother nursing in a professional sense,” Suzanne recalled. “But I watched her take care of both of my grandmothers in our home, starting with my father’s mother. And then, when I was about 10 years old, I was in a pretty serious car accident and missed a whole year of school. My mother cared for me while I recuperated. So while she didn’t talk a lot about her career as a nurse, I experienced the compassion she had for others. It was the power of example.”
Suzanne decided at an early age that she also wanted to pursue a career in medicine.
“I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “I used to pull out all my mother’s books – the Merck Manual, her nursing guides – and I’d read them. I was fascinated by them.While my friends were playing with Barbie dolls, I wanted to perform brain surgery on Barbie.”
But, like so many of us, Suzanne admits that she “got a little sidetracked” in high school and her career aspirations were put on hold. She got married, had children, got divorced, and worked two jobs to support her family. Ten years later, feeling burned-out and unfulfilled professionally, she arrived at a crossroads.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’m 35 years old with three little kids and a GED – what am I going to do with myself?’ I’d had my fill of driving a school bus and didn’t care for waitressing. The one thing I knew I could do was take care of other people. So I answered an ad for a nursing assistant job at a nursing home five minutes from where I lived in Middletown. It was tough at first. It’s hard, physical work. But I hung on.”
At the encouragement of a coworker, Suzanne enrolled in an LPN program at a local technical school, eventually graduating with high honors. She was assigned to a unit at the same facility where she’d been working as a CNA.
“I did that for eight years and loved it,” she said.“I knew I’d found my calling, and I fell in love with the elderly. I absolutely loved them and still do. Where else could I work where I’d have 30 adopted grandparents? They have so many stories to tell and so much wisdom to impart. These were people from my community – the lawyer, the teacher, the person who worked at the grocery store – and I felt that in caring for them, I was giving back. And I found that because I was raised in a home with my grandmothers, I had the ability to connect with the elderly in a way that some younger people couldn’t.”
Suzanne, who has since remarried,went back to school to become an RN. In 2012, she left the Middletown facility to accept a position as clinical nurse manager at Masonicare Health Center.
“Before then,” she said, “I didn’t know anything about Masonicare except what I’d heard from the chair of the nursing program at Goodwin College who used to work here. She’d tell me that Masonicare Health Center was the Cadillac of nursing homes. She was right. This is a great place. There’s an integrity and adherence to certain values. Executive management talks about it all the time, and I feel like they’re really supportive of us. They want us to be successful. They want us to be there for the patients. I sense a patriotic spirit here, too, which I think has a lot to do with the company’s ties tothe Masons.To prepare myself, I read about the fraternity before I came to work here and I found it to be very interesting. I actually wish I’d been exposed to it sooner.”
Suzanne is deeply grateful to have received a Brandt Nursing Scholarship. It will help pay forclassesat Goodwin, where she is continuing her studies towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. She is mindful of the opportunities she has that her mother did not and wishes that Joyce, who passed away last May while under the care of Masonicare Home Health & Hospice, could have seen her accept the award.
“But I sensed she was with me at the ceremony,” she said, “in spirit and in my heart.”