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Sisters share passion for nursing

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Monzon, Watkins, Willoughby keep career path in the family

By Becca Owsley

Visitors to Hardin Memorial Hospital might be a little confused when they move between the second and fifth floors, especially when they see a familiar face on both.

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Identical twin sisters Donna Monzon and Nancy Willoughby, nurses at the hospital, would be the cause of that confusion. To add to the family business, their older sister, Linda Watkins, retired from the hospital July 1 after working 26 years in the BirthPlace.

All grounds are covered, Monzon said. Watkins worked with babies and new parents, Willoughby works with cancer patients and Monzon works in the ICU.

Together, the sisters have worked 80 years in nursing.

Monzon has been a nurse the longest, 34 years. She always wanted a profession working with people and remembers Watkins talking about wanting to be a nurse. She decided to pursue the career.

Watkins started nursing school when her youngest of three daughters was in school. She got her license later in life.

“But I’ve certainly used it,” she said.

Willoughby waited until after she had children to follow her sisters into nursing. She remembered her mother, a woman who would help anyone, volunteering at the hospital.

Willoughby has been a nurse for 20 years.

“If Linda can do it, surely I can, and if Donna likes it, surely I’ll like it,” she said. “We just wanted to keep it in the family.”

All three credit their parents for teaching them the strength and caring it takes to be a nurse.

They’re rarely all at the hospital at the same time, but working in the same profession and the same location drew them closer together. 

“Nursing has been good for us because it’s helped us stay together. It’s helped us stay close,” Watkins said.

They’ve all experienced joys and sorrows.

Working in the BirthPlace, Watkins was in the room when many babies were born.

“To be a part of that family for that little bit of time was special,” she said.

“She was known as the baby whisperer,” Monzon said, noting Watkins always could get a baby to calm down.

But the sad times were really sad, especially when something unexpected went wrong, Watkins said.

For Willoughby, getting to know her patients and their families, to become part of their lives, is the best part of her job. She’s learned about different cultures and different kinds of people. She has many regulars who have spent years fighting cancer.

Sometimes moments are sad, but she’s had a lot of fun with her patients. She never expected to laugh with people in such tough situations.

Monzon has cared for really sick patients that unexpectedly become healthy. Many come back to let her know how they are doing. In tough times, dealing with critical illness, Monzon said the nurses are drawn into their lives and see how hard a loved one’s illness is on a family.

Even though their job sometimes has tears, it also is filled with laughter, especially with the twins.

Their pranks are well known.

Monzon has sent patients up to the fifth floor and told them she’ll beat them up there, when it’s Willoughby who received them upstairs.

Monzon once convinced a nurse in training she had another personality named Nancy.

At other times, doctors or hospital employees will see one twin during the day and another at night. The twins will convince them it’s a double shift.

When Willoughby has a patient with a good sense of humor, she’ll pull Monzon in to see if she could trick them into thinking one is the other. It helps lighten the mood for a patient, she said.

Some who have worked with them for years didn’t realize they were two different people. Once a co-worker was upset at Monzon because she wouldn’t speak to her. Another co-worker had to explain she was probably running into Willoughby, who didn’t know her.

Watkins often got the question: “They’re your sisters?”

“And you say ‘yes’ and (that) you’re so thankful,” Willoughby joked.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

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