Our Nurses Know: Family

October 17, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Nurses Laura and Sam Walsh met at Michigan Medicine. The two married in 2000.

Michigan Medicine colleagues often feel like family. After all, team members spend hundreds of hours together each month carrying out extraordinary patient care, education and research.

For two Michigan Medicine nurses, a close work relationship eventually blossomed into something much more than that.

“Seventeen years ago, our work family became, simply, family,” said Laura Walsh, who met her husband, Sam, while the two worked the night shift on 6C at University Hospital.

“You put your career and your trust into the hands of your coworkers when you’re helping a patient who is in trouble,” Laura said. “If there were any problems, I would want Sam next to me. That’s how I knew we were meant for each other.”

A different perspective 

Since marrying in 2000, the Walshes have raised three children: Evan, 16, Grace, 14, and Manny, 12. While Evan and Grace have had no major health issues, Manny was born with Down syndrome.

Sam and Laura said Manny — a patient at Mott — has given them a chance to see health care from a different perspective.

“Through our training and education, we know all about improved technology and medical advances,” Sam said. “But our experience with Manny helped us become better nurses, because we now know what is most important to patients and family members.”

Leaning on one another

While the two no longer work on the same unit — Laura now works in the adult blood and marrow transplant clinic and Sam is assigned to the surgical intensive care unit — they still lean on one another.

“We both have so much experience in nursing that when one of us is having a rough day, we can provide the perfect pick-me-up or some much-needed advice,” Sam said. “We’ll send each other a text or an email during our shifts just to try and make each other smile and keep us going.”

Laura said she and Sam also help each other grow professionally.

“We teach each other so much about our work,” Laura said. “If we find out about a new syndrome or try out a new piece of equipment, we will always come home and talk about it. That really adds depth to our marriage. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

‘Tight-knit family’

Both Sam and Laura work in high-stakes environments treating high-acuity patients. It’s work that has given them a new appreciation for one another.

“We are an incredibly tight-knit family,” Laura said. “Much of that is because we see people every day who are going through some of the hardest times of their lives. That can either rip families apart or bring them closer together.”

Work also serves as a reminder of how precious life — and good health — can be.

“It can be difficult when a patient you have grown close to has a setback or faces another challenge,” Sam said. “Those are the days that make me go home and hug my kids a little bit tighter.”

But it’s not just the difficult times that bring Sam, Laura and their children together.

“When I see a transplant patient leave the hospital with a new zest for life, that’s the best kind of day,” Laura said. “I know Sam understands that feeling, too. So we share in each other’s victories and successes as much as we can. And it gives us an appreciation for life that we may not have had before.”