Both graduated from UMass Dartmouth’s College of Nursing & Health Sciences and will pursue separate careers in nursing
Next door and side by side. That's how it's always been for cousins Allison and Jenna Michaud.
Not only have they always lived next door to each other and their grandparents on a private road in Westport, MA, Allison ‘23 and Jenna '23 have always attended school together—from kindergarten at Westport Elementary School through Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth— and now UMass Dartmouth's College of Nursing & Health Sciences.
As they prepared to graduate from college and take separate paths for the first time, the Michaud cousins reminisced about their shared family memories and how they supported each other through the rigors of nursing school.
A close and special bond
"We definitely feel like sisters," said Jenna, who has a twin brother and older sister. "We really hung out together all the time. In the summer, we'd go to our grandparents' house, eat, and spend the day there.
"We're very fortunate that our families are so close," she said. "We had family dinners at my grandmother's every Sunday until my sister went to college. I always found myself at Allison's house.
"My grandparents loved it. We were always together in the summer and after school. We always came up with ridiculous games," added Jenna. "We played outside a lot as kids. My grandparents built a man-made pond. We put kayaks in the pond, caught frogs, swam in the pool. We went ice skating in the winter when the pond froze over."
"We liked to create fake businesses," said Allison. "We had a lemonade stand. My grandmother made dolls and we would take her doll supplies and make other things and sell them back to her."
For Allison, an only child, Jenna and her siblings were "the siblings I don't fight with," she joked.
Their fathers, Chris and Roger, are brothers. Their grandmother, Mary Michaud, was also a nurse.
Their favorite memories are of family road trips together when all ten Michauds would pile into their grandfather's RV camper for summer road trips. They went to Myrtle Beach, Pennsylvania, and the cousins' favorite, Disneyworld. "That was a fun family vacation," Allison recalled.
They attended Westport Elementary and Middle School together and admit that they went their separate ways while attending Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth. Jenna played soccer, was involved in theater, and worked at a summer camp while Allison worked at Lees Market in Westport. Then Jenna began working there in the bakery while Allison became a front-end supervisor. Allison's mom and Jenna's brother also worked at Lees, another shared family experience.
Why UMass Dartmouth?
When it became time to choose a college, Allison said UMass Dartmouth made sense financially and academically. "It's close to home. They have an amazing nursing program. I got to work at a hospital nearby. It was easy to make connections. I always knew I wanted to live at home. I'm too close to my family and I have a lot of friends from the area."
Jenna originally wanted to live away from home for college but chose UMass Dartmouth for its affordability. "It's been great. I've always been close to my family. Allison and I have the same friend group.
"I definitely immersed myself as if I was living on campus," added Jenna, who also commuted. "It's very easy to make friends."
"I always wanted to go into medicine," said Allison. "Nursing is a good foundation for what I want to do in the future. Nursing is a highly respected position, and I would rather have more hands-on experience with patients before going on to do something else."
"I always liked helping people. I love kids so I either wanted to be a second-grade teacher or a nurse," said Jenna. "Nurses are basically teachers. I felt I could pursue both by teaching as a nurse."
Nursing students begin clinicals at the end of their sophomore year and typically work in a group of eight students with one instructor. The senior year mentorship is a one-on-one experience as nursing students work with an RN and his or her patients in a hospital.
After completing her mentorship at Hasbro Children's Hospital working with newborns, children, and adolescents, Jenna plans to work in pediatric or maternity nursing. Later, she may go to nurse practitioner school and either become a school nurse or work in a pediatrician's office. "Nursing offers a lot of opportunities," she said.
Allison completed her mentorship at St. Anne's Hospital on a medical/surgical floor. She hopes to work at one of the SouthCoast Hospitals after passing her national nursing exam.
Supporting each other was especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic when their nursing classes were remote. "Covid made it more challenging. We would go over each other's houses and study together," Allison said. "It was really helpful having Jenna next door."
When they returned to campus, that support continued. "We studied together all the time. We have a study group with a few of our mutual friends. We meet in the Library Living Room," she said.
Both Allison and Jenna feel prepared for their future nursing careers. "The lectures and clinicals were very good. They taught us everything we need to know. The clinicals make you more confident going into your mentorship, and the mentorship is great," said Jenna.
"They prepared us really well," agreed Allison. "The faculty have been great. They really do care about us. You can make connections in the classroom very easily."
Pinning each other marked the end of their journey together
The culmination of nursing students' education is the Pinning Ceremony, where graduates receive their nursing pins from a loved one or a mentor as they celebrate their transition from nursing student to professional nurse. The pin holds many symbolic meanings and is associated with Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. At their Pinning Ceremony in early May, Allison and Jenna decided to pin each other.
"It's been really nice," said Jenna wistfully as their school years together come to an end. "We've always had each other to depend on. It's going to be weird not seeing each other all the time in school. But we're always together."
While they don't plan to attend school together again, Allison and Jenna's bond ensures that they will always support each other—whether they are apart or side by side.