All in the family: Three generations serve as UMHS nurses

August 23, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,
Perkins family final

From left: Maria Perkins, Loretta Marzec and Madonna Perkins.

For Madonna and Maria Perkins, becoming a nurse at U-M was natural. After all, it runs in their family.

Loretta Marzec, Madonna’s mother and Maria’s grandmother, spent decades in nursing, including a stint in various UMHS departments between 1975 and 1988.

Loretta, Madonna and Maria team up to give the family a distinct identity. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re a U-M family,” Loretta said.

It started at home

Growing up as Loretta’s daughter wasn’t always easy. She worked for seven years in the coronary care unit, often at odd hours and in high-stress situations.

Due to her mother’s schedule — and the fact that she grew up with six brothers — Madonna found herself in position to do quite a bit of parenting.

“If anybody got hurt, I was the one to fix them up,” Madonna said with a chuckle. “I sort of became a nurse through osmosis. The career just sort of fit with me.”

Loretta said she never tried to dissuade her daughter from her chosen path.

“The kids were just so used to seeing me truck off to work and seeing me in my uniform and stuff,” Loretta said. “And I told them, ‘There’s always going to be sick people. There’s always going to be a need for nurses.’”

Madonna’s career began in 1980 with her first stint at UMHS. After time away to help raise her three children, she went back to school to become a registered nurse and rejoined the health system four years ago.

“It’s such a great place to work, I love my job,” said Madonna, who works in internal medicine at Taubman Center. “The doctors I work with are fabulous.”

Another perk? Madonna sometimes gets to grab lunch with her daughter, who has been an RN at UMHS for just under a year. “I couldn’t be more proud [of Maria],” Madonna said. “It’s just a special situation.”

Taking the long route

Maria’s path to nursing took a lot longer — and was much more circuitous.

She originally planned on going into journalism before switching gears and assisting in animal lab research at U-M. She also took some physical therapy classes and a nurse’s aid course.

Now, she works in 7A at University Hospital while taking classes at the Chamberlain College of Nursing to get her bachelor’s degree.

“Everything in my life just sort of led me on that path to nursing,” Maria said. “This is where I have to be.”

But what is it that pointed Maria — and Madonna before her — so strongly in the direction of nursing? Both of them agree it was the matriarch of the family.

“My mother is a very, very strong woman,” Madonna said. “And she trained me to make tough decisions and stand up for myself and defend those decisions. You need that sort of personality to make decisions on the fly as a nurse.”

Pride and joy

Recently, Maria brought her grandmother to UH to show her around. “Every single person I was introduced to told me what a good nurse Maria is,” Loretta said. “I was so, so happy to hear that.

“And Madonna, she’s gone way beyond what I ever did,” Loretta gushed. “She impresses me so much.”

In the end, the family finds sheer joy in helping others — the main mission at UMHS.

And Maria doesn’t just save the joy for her patients. She has some fun at her mother’s expense.

“I tell all the doctors to go and give my mother a hard time, in some way, shape or form,” Maria said with a smile. “I don’t know if they follow through with it, but I try really hard to make it happen!”