The WellSpan Spotlight

A Mother's Day tale: Meet a mom who inspired her son to go into nursing

A Mother's Day tale: Meet a mom who inspired her son to go into nursing

Cathi Gibbs says she knew her son would be a fabulous nurse. 

Zach Gibbs says, "I'm a lot like my mom." 

On Mother's Day, here is the tale of two WellSpan nurses. One is a mom who decided to leave her first job to find fulfillment in a second career caring for others. The other is the son who watched her do it, and ultimately chose the same career for himself. 

Meet Cathi and Zach 

Cathi, 51, has been a registered nurse for 16 years and now works as a case manager at WellSpan York Hospital. She worked in business but decided to go into nursing after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, sparked by a desire to make a direct difference in other people's lives. During her nursing career, she has worked in an emergency department, on a medical-surgical floor, and as a hospice and home care nurse, also working in management positions. 

Zach, 23, has been a nurse for five months at WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital, after participating in the WellSpan nursing extern program that allows student nurses to experience different types of nursing to find the one that fits them best. He won the Daisy Award, which honors the work of nurses, just weeks after he started working at WellSpan, nominated by a patient who was impressed and touched by his attention to his pain management needs. 

Mom goes back to school 

Cathi was excited but a little stressed about going back to school when she was in her 30s. She had to juggle her classes with a full-time job as a phlebotomist that she got after leaving the business world; the work schedule of her husband; and the school and home schedules of their daughter and son, Zach, who was just 4 when his mom started nursing school and in second grade when she graduated. 

"Sometimes I would have to pack up Zach and take him along," Cathi remembers. "He would sit in the back of class, take notes, and draw pictures. My favorite story was from anatomy and physiology class. The instructor was drawing a picture of the heart and the blood flow through the heart. He was just so quiet and said he drew a picture too. He had it exactly right. The teacher hung his picture on her door until she retired, and said he was her youngest student ever." 

When Zach later learned to read, he would do flash cards with his mom, going over study tricks like: "When you are in vfib, that means defib."  

"That was the first time I went to nursing school," Zach says, smiling. 

Son chooses his path 

In high school, Zach initially thought he would study engineering when he went to college.  

"In my sophomore year, I asked myself what I could see myself doing every day," he said. "I like interacting with people. I want to do something that is intrinsically rewarding. My mom loves it. I'm a lot like my mom. I thought I already went to nursing school. I may as well do it again." 

Cathi was shocked. "I didn't push him at all. I said, 'You are going to nursing school?!' " 

Now it was mom's turn to offer support. 

"She could identify," Zach says. "She would say, 'Yes, that is the hard part, and this is what I did and you're doing great.' I also remember saying to her, 'I have an exam tomorrow. Can you do flashcards?' " 

Cathi laughs. "It was always when I was ready to go to bed!" 

Quick takes 

  • Best quality as a nurse – Cathi: a deep interest in people. Zach: a head for details. 
  • Take on each other – Cathi: "He's very caring and concerned about people, and he's also 10 times smarter than me." Zach: "She is so thorough and emotionally driven. She wants to know all of her patients." 
  • Plans for Mother's Day – Eating a meal together with their family. 
  • Dinner table topics – Sports (go O's!), music (Bruuuuce! Zach and his dad attend lots of concerts together), and work (they can't help themselves sometimes). Cathi: "We can get going on nursing. There have been times when we have been told to stop the conversation."