All in the Family
Many refer to their units, departments or hospital as “one big family.” Maybe it’s because we spend so much time together, or because some invite relatives to apply because it’s a great place to work. This section is about those connections. We want to hear your story.
Fourth Generation Cares for Patients
By Hilary Waldman
Beth Cheney, center, poses outside Windham Hospital with her sister-in-law Pam Cheney, left, and niece, Alexa Cheney. All are in nursing, carrying on a four-generation family tradition.
Photo by Jeff Evans
When Beth Cheney steps on to the grounds of Windham Hospital, where she is a family nurse practitioner, she’s walking in the footsteps of a nursing dynasty that has cared for patients at what is now Hartford HealthCare for almost 100 years.
Cheney’s grandmother, mother, sister-in-law and niece have been or are nurses, mostly in what is now the East Region.
Her paternal grandmother Arleen Whitham Cheney graduated from the Hartford Hospital School of Nursing in 1927. Her nursing cape and other historical memorabilia now hang in a display case in the hospital lobby. When she died in 2002 at the age of 97, she was the oldest living graduate of the now-closed school.
Beth’s mother, Verna Cheney, worked nights in the Windham Hospital Emergency Department for 35 years, eventually becoming head nurse.
Beth’s sister-in-law, Pam Cheney, is now a fixture of the Windham ED, where she has practiced nursing for 21 years.
Generation four of the Cheney clan is Alexa Cheney, who earned her doctor of nursing practice in anesthesia last year and is now a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) at Backus Hospital.
“My mom was the reason I became a nurse,” Alexa Cheney said. “She can take somebody’s worst moment and make it better.”
Pam Cheney gets a little choked up when asked about Alexa’s decision to follow her career path. “It’s a wonderful feeling,’’ said the veteran nurse who is otherwise rarely at a loss for words.
The family connection is strong.
“I know my grandmother is looking down on us,’’ said Beth Cheney, gathering with Pam and Alexa in Windham lobby for a photo.
Beth also credited her mother as inspiration. Verna Cheney raised five children while working nights. Somehow, she found time to sew her children’s clothing, make quilts, tend a garden and orchestrate magical holiday celebrations.
As a nurse, she was a legend for calm and compassion even in the midst of chaotic emergencies.
Now director of Primary Care Advanced Practice for Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, Beth divides her time between administrative work and patient care. She still approaches her practice with the small town values infused in her by her mother and grandmother.
“I just really value the relationship I have with my patients,’’ she said. “Every day you come in, you can really make a difference for people.”