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Feb. 27, 2014 Volume 35, No. 21

Children’s Hospital nurses share more than their 2013 Nurses of the Year award

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Twin sisters Jennifer Hanford, left, and Sarah Cammack have worked together in MU Children’s Hospital’s NICU for seven and a half years. Photo by Justin Kelley.

As infants, the twins spent two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after being born prematurely

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MU Children’s Hospital in east Columbia is a special place for twin sisters Sarah Cammack and Jennifer Hanford. Their parents worked there.They were newborns there. They work there. And one of Cammack’s children received care there.

Cammack and Hanford are registered neonatal nurses in the intensive care unit (NICU). Last November at a ceremony in St. Louis, they were named along with 20 other Missouri nurses as the 2013 March of Dimes’ Nurses of the Year. 

More than 300 nominations were submitted representing 55 different health organizations throughout Missouri. A selection committee of health care professionals reviewed the nominations and determined the winners.

“It is a huge honor,” Hanford said. “It was overwhelming to be there with all the nurses with different experiences.” 

Cammack and Hanford were born March 17, 1984, prematurely and spent two months in the NICU. 

At the time, the sisters’ parents, Debbie and Craig Anderson, were NICU nurses. The Andersons worked there for six years until 1985. Cammack said that their parents’ occupation played a big role in her and Hanford’s career choice.

Barb Brucks cared for the infant twins when she was a nurse in the unit. Now the NICU manager, Brucks nominated Cammack and Hanford for the award.

“They are outstanding nurses and have contributed so much to our hospital,” Brucks said. “They deserve to be recognized for their extraordinary level of patient care, compassion and leadership in the nursing profession.”

On Nov. 6, 2013, Cammack gave birth prematurely by cesarean to her second child, Arlee, at MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Arlee was born at 34 weeks gestation and brought immediately to the NICU. She weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Arlee was at the NICU until Dec. 9.

“I can’t imagine a better group of people to have take care of my baby,” Cammack said. “They treated her like she was their own and always included me in decisions regarding her care.”

Today, the infant is healthy and happy and weighs 12 pounds, 13 ounces, Cammack said. 

“It feels like a full circle — being born and cared for in the [NICU], working here as a nurse myself and then having a baby that was also cared for in the NICU,” Cammack said.

Both sisters are married, enjoy sewing, reading and craft making. They earned a BSN, or bachelor of science in nursing, from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. They have worked together at the NICU for about seven and a half years. 

“It is nice to be able to talk to someone about work and have them know exactly what you mean,” Hanford said. “We did not always anticipate working together, but now can’t imagine anything different.”

If not for their wearing different hairstyles, the sisters could almost be identical. “People have a difficult time telling us apart at first,” Hanford said, “but once they get to know us, they can tell the difference.”

Cammack said that nursing is their passion, and they feel honored to be recognized in their field. However, Cammack and Hanford don’t take all the credit for their success. They said that they’re working with a great team, and that’s what made this award possible. “I can’t imagine working anywhere else,” Cammack said. “I feel like this award honors everyone around us.”

— JeongAn Choi, with additional reporting by Mark Barna