Jennifer Hanford and Sarah Cammack have a lot in common. They’re registered neonatal nurses. They work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MU Children’s Hospital. They’re also twin sisters.
They were both also named Nurses of the Year by March of Dimes.
Along with 20 other nurses, they were recognized at a November ceremony in St. Louis. There were 270 applications submitted statewide, representing 55 different organizations throughout Missouri.
“It was overwhelming,” Hanford said. “I go to work, and I love what I do, and I just do my job, so to be recognized for something I felt like was just doing my job was very nice.”
Cammack said it was incredible to be included with other experienced nurses from around the state.
“It was definitely an honor and something I feel like is an award for our entire unit,” Cammack said. “I don’t feel like I would be where I am without the help of our manager and our staff that we work with.”
The sisters started working at the NICU on the same day, and they have been there for 7 1/2 years. They work in the same unit of the hospital where they were born and where their parents, Debbie and Craig Anderson, also worked as neonatal nurses.
Along with her own passion, Hanford said being exposed to nursing at an early age through her parents’ occupation helped her decide to enter a health-related field.
“We had always kind of grown up around health-related terminology and heard our mom and dad talk about the health care field,” Cammack said. “So I knew that that was something I was interested in.”
Acute care nursing supervisor Cindy Franke has worked at the MU Children’s Hospital since 1980.
She worked in the NICU with Cammack and Hanford’s parents and was in the unit when the twins were born. She has worked with the sisters since they were hired in 2006.
Franke said the sisters have been involved with a lot of changes the unit has recently undergone. The two unwaveringly bring positive attitudes to the unit when they work, she said.
“They’re so enthusiastic about what they do here and the care that they provide,” Franke said. “It’s always a pleasure to work with them, and I know I can always go to them and count on them.”
The twins have made strides working with babies born prematurely, Franke said.
“Babies that are born premature have special developmental needs, and they have worked endlessly to give us what we need, to bring some changes that we needed into the unit to help the babies with their developmental outcome,” she said.
Both Hanford and Cammack graduated from Truman State University in Kirksville in 2006, where they each earned a bachelor’s of science in nursing.
“We didn’t always anticipate working together,” Hanford said. “But since we have been, I can’t imagine anything different. … We have no plans to change anything now. We enjoy where we’re at, and we enjoy the unit we work for.”
Hanford said the competitive energy they get working with each other makes them strive to do their jobs to the fullest.
From growing up together, going to college together and now working together, Hanford and Cammack have been close their entire lives.
“We were close from the second we were born,” Hanford said. “My mom says we did the baby talk to each other growing up. We definitely had similar friends and similar interests all throughout elementary school, high school and college. We talk to each other every day.”
Both sisters said it’s comforting to have someone they’re close to who understands the details about the good days and bad days of their job.
“I don’t know what it would be like not to have her,” Cammack said of Hanford. “People ask us if we’re best friends, and I would say we’re more than best friends because we have always been very close.”
Cammack said they always had the same interests and group of friends growing up.
“It’s awesome to always have that person who is going to be thinking similar to what you’re thinking,” Cammack said. “It’s awesome to have that support from somebody who is so similar to you.”
As far as the sisters’ nursing careers go, Franke said she sees big things for them in the future.
“I think that they are the future leaders of our unit,” Franke said. “They’ve been here for almost eight years, so they’re at the beginning of their career. I can see they’re really, truly an asset to us, and they’re helping moving us forward in our practice and our care for the families and the babies, and I see them as our future leaders.”