It wasn’t this experience that influenced Andris and peaked her interest in nursing, however. That happened five years later, when their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“That was the first time that she was diagnosed, but that was probably the one that sticks in my mind the most because I was just at that formative age where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Andris said. “So seeing her go through that experience and just being so grateful to people who were able to provide her such good care, kind of opened my eyes to a career that I hadn’t previously thought about.
“I always wanted to be a veterinarian,” she continued, “and so I think that my love of helping others kind of tunneled into a path where I realized I could do that for other people.”
Tortoriello was influenced by the nurses who cared for their mother, but also by watching her sister. “Definitely watching Jenny had a huge influence on what I wanted to do,” she said.
But that wasn’t all. When their mother’s breast cancer returned a year ago, they were back at Northside for treatment. “The nurses were like, ‘You know I was with your mom 15 years ago when she was sick,’ and that’s so cool to hear,” Tortoriello said. “So things like that are a huge reason why I wanted to go to nursing, as well. But labor and delivery … for sure Jenny had pull with that one.”
Andris recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary at Northside, having never wavered from her decision to become a nurse.
“It just feels crazy to say that, because I remember signing on as a nurse. They had a two-year contract at the time and I remember thinking, oh my gosh, two years is such a long time and like can I commit two years to anything and here I am, 10 years later, still loving it and no plans to go anywhere else or do anything else.
“It’s such an emotional roller coaster of pure happiness and some really sad, you know, the worst day of someone’s life, and then you walk in the room and it’s someone else’s best day of their life,” she said. “So something about the pull of the emotions that you build with your patients in such a short amount of time was what I realized I wanted to do.”
In her decade at Northside, Andris has seen a lot, she said, but there was one day that stuck out in mind.
“One time I had a mother and a daughter who were both pregnant at the same time and they got to facilitate both of their deliveries in the same day which was really crazy,” she said. “It was such a unique situation, but it was so nice to go back and forth between these two rooms seeing all the love and excitement and then everyone was just crying because the (man who was ) husband of the one and father of the other just kept running back and forth. He didn’t know where to be. He just wanted to be there for everybody. And that one has always stuck in my mind is like maybe one of the most unique and exciting experiences I ever had.”
Everything for Tortoriello “is really fascinating to me, because I’ve never seen any of it. So everything that I see for the first time I feel like that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Until the next thing happens — like maybe that’s the craziest thing. But I think the OR C-section delivery would be really interesting to watch firsthand. That seems really interesting to me.”
As a senior at Georgia Southern, Tortoriello will be working at Northside as part of hospital’s extern program. She said she’s looking forward to working with Andris.
“There’s nothing more comforting than an older sister,” she said. “So to go into this brand new, really feeling like I know nothing, I’m so glad that she’ll be able to be there. I can call on her when I feel like, ‘I don’t know what that is. Am I supposed to know what that is?’ At least Jenny will be there.
“So I’m really just excited to obviously spend some time with her, hopefully have some sleepovers at her house together, but just being able to learn from her and all the knowledge she’s accumulated over the past 10 years. There is a lot to learn there. And you know, she’s my biggest role model here. So I’m just really excited to learn under her and have the opportunity to do that.”
“I have always had a heart for teaching what I have learned,” Andris said, and “I’m just excited to bring Amy into this field as her first work experiences as a nursing student. I feel like I can facilitate a smooth transition into the field and hopefully inspire her the same passion that I still have for this field.”
“I hope I don’t lean on her too much,” Tortoriello said. “I’m going to try my absolute best to be as independent as possible. But I do want to do the absolute best that I can in this role and in this position. So if, you know, having to come to her from time to time, even if it’s a little too much, to make my self better at this job in this position, then I’ll have to do it.”
Andris said she hopes all new nurses feel comfortable leaning on the experienced staff.
“I would hope that anyone that I work with as a new nurse would come to me in that same way,” she said. “I would never want someone to be worried about approaching a nurse that’s older or more experienced and asking a question. So I hope that Amy and everyone else in her cohort and every other cohort that’s come before her and everyone that comes after feels that way — that there’s no leaning too hard on us, because I have this experience. And I feel like if I can teach them something that they don’t have to learn the hard way.”
For the sisters, working together is a dream come true.
“Jenny has been saying for years, ‘You gotta come to Northside with me one day,’ and you never knew if it would really happen,” Tortoriello said. “But here we are, and it feels like a dream coming true, as corny as that sounds, because we’ve just talked about it for so long. "
Andris’ dream is “for (Amy) to just work with me hand in hand for another decade together. But I want her to also find what her fire is, and if that’s not labor and delivery, that’s OK.”
Now that they’re coming out of the pandemic, Andris is looking forward to the future.
“Yeah, I don’t want to sugarcoat it too much. It’s been a heck of a ride,” she said, “but I feel like we’re all coming out on the other side of it, and maybe made better for it. So you know, I’m hoping that the next couple years are some good years and some illuminating years — for us the tired old nurses and for all the future nurses, too.”
For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.