Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Vol. 7 •Issue 10 • Page 16
Like Mother, Like Daughter

Montefiore nurse says she followed in her mother’s footsteps but has found her own path along the way

When Doreen Lleras, RN, head nurse of cardiothoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center’s Weiler Division, visits the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), she’s inordinately proud to be introduced as “Andrea’s mom.”

After all, Andrea Montalvo, RN, CPN, has spent the better part of her life at Montefiore in one role or another.

Born at the hospital in 1973, Montalvo has been a beloved member of her mother’s OR family, a teenage volunteer, a phlebotomist, and now a staff nurse certified in pediatrics.

Freedom to Make a Choice

While Lleras said she found the perfect career niche in perioperative nursing at Montefiore for the past 30 years, she was determined not to influence her daughter’s professional decisions.

“In high school, Andrea had filled out a questionnaire that said she would be an excellent speech therapist,” she recalled. “After going from a small high school to a large university like St. John’s, she got lost in the shuffle. After a year, she decided that wasn’t what she wanted to be, so she became a licensed phlebotomist.”

That healthcare experience provided Montalvo with an in-depth look at various careers at Montefiore and led to a momentous decision.

“Being a phlebotomist opened my eyes to the possibilities of nursing,” she explained. “I knew I didn’t want to be an OR nurse like my mom, but I really didn’t know much about other kinds of nursing.

“When I went around to the various pediatric units to draw blood, I got to see what pediatric nurses did within specialties like hematolgy/oncology and cardiology, and how they worked with children of all ages,” Montalvo said. “I remember thinking, ‘This is cool!'”

Pros & Cons

When Montalvo began talking about a nursing career, Lleras was taken aback.

“At the time I was growing up, all the females in the country were expected to become teachers, secretaries or nurses,” she said. “As a young child, I had had my share of accidents and incidents, including two concussions, so I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I was cared for by nurses who really impressed me, so I chose that pathway.

“But Andrea had so many avenues open to her, and I wanted her to understand the whole picture of nursing,” Lleras said. So mother and daughter sat down and talked about some nursing realities: rotating shifts, working holidays and weekends, and the impact those hours can have on relationships and family life.

“Still, [Andrea] was very committed, and it really was to her advantage to have the hospital background,” Lleras said. “She excelled in nursing school, won awards along the way and really found her calling as a professional nurse.”

As Montalvo considered various specialties within her profession, she once more came to her mother for advice and support.

“I’ve always told Andrea nursing is a wonderful profession because there is such a broad spectrum of choices, and so many avenues open, to nurses,” Lleras said. “But it did shock me when she said she wanted to specialize in pediatrics, which had been my original interest as a student nurse before I completed my pediatric rotation and saw children who were victims of abuse, painful diseases or terrible traumas.”

Again, mother and daughter talked at length. Lleras tapped a friend who was a pediatric ICU nurse to help her daughter find a volunteer role in the unit for the summer.

“She saw a child die and still wanted to be a peds nurse, so I knew this was the right choice,” Lleras said.

For her part, Montalvo valued her mother’s honesty and concern.

“She truly wanted me to have the opportunity to be whatever I wanted to be in life, and she let me try out different options before I decided on nursing,” Montalvo said. “I didn’t graduate from nursing school until I was 25 years old, but I was committed to pediatric nursing when I finished.”

Growing Family

Beloved within the Montefiore community as a child, Montalvo went on to form new family bonds as an adult.

“I was 20 years old, working as a phlebotomist at Montefiore, when I met my husband Wally as he was transporting patients, and love was in the air!” she said. “When it was time to get married, one of our wedding invitations was posted in the OR lounge, so we had a number of OR staff at the church.”

The Montalvos’ first daughter Anisa was born at Montefiore on the same nursing unit where Lleras had given birth to Montalvo.

“My mom was present at the delivery, of course,” Montalvo said. “When Anisa was 4 months old, I developed a pseudo-aneurysm and spent 4 months on the neuro unit at the hospital.”

After being medically cleared, Montalvo gave birth to her second daughter Maya, again at Montefiore.

“We had named Anisa after a patient I cared for many years ago, but we didn’t have a wonderful story to go along with Maya,” she chuckled. “When we looked it up in various languages, we found that Maya means nurse in Greek, so that clinched her name! Nursing just seems to be part of our family life.”

Creating Her Own Path

As a Montefiore nurse, Montalvo thoroughly enjoys providing direct patient care to her young patients as well as precepting novice pediatric nurses.

“I love working within the hospital community where I was born and raised,” she said. “As much as I enjoyed walking in my mother’s footsteps, I’ve also been able to work at a separate campus in my own specialty, and establish my own reputation.

“When I used to visit Montefiore, nurses would say to me, ‘Oh, you’re Doreen’s daughter.’ Now when she comes to CHAM, people say to her, ‘Oh, you’re Andrea’s mom,’ and that’s a good feeling!”

What dreams does Montalvo have for her own daughters?

“Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to guide and support them, and provide them with opportunities like I had growing up,” she said. “Anisa is very outspoken and tells doctors, ‘My mom’s a nurse, and that’s better!’ She says she wants to be a nurse like Mommy when she grows up. I followed in my mother’s footsteps, but I created my own path along the way. I want my children to have the same freedom to choose.”

The feeling is mutual.

“When you’re raising a child, you never know what they’ll be like when they mature,” Lleras said. “But today I walk with Andrea through the halls of Montefiore, and it’s wonderful to see how she’s found her own way and developed her own nursing expertise.”

Sandy Keefe is a frequent contributor to ADVANCE.

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