Mother, three daughters all nurses during COVID-19 pandemic


Hayden Mills has a right to be proud.

In a recent Facebook post, he shared pictures of his mother, Colette Mills, and three sisters, Caitlin Ackeret, Lainey Mills and Hannah Mills, who are all nurses.

That profession is in the spotlight this year as health care professionals are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Hayden, however, said his sisters and mother haven’t complained once.

“Day in and out, they work their long shifts and do it with a smile under their mask,” he wrote.

Lainey is finishing her studies to become a registered nurse and works as a hairdresser and a licensed practical nurse at a nursing home. She tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year due to her work and fortunately recovered.

Ackeret is a registered nurse going to school in the evenings to become a nurse practitioner.

Hannah also is finishing her studies to become an RN and working as a LPN. She has seen many patients die as COVID-19 has ravaged through nursing homes, and she has had three COVID scares.

Colette is a hospice nurse and has had to change the way she works to put patient safety at the forefront. She has seen many patients die sooner than they should because of COVID-19.

“She’s the one who started the whole nurse thing for the Mills ladies and no doubt has inspired the girls to become nurses themselves,” Hayden wrote.

Colette said several family members were influential in her choosing nursing as a career.

“As a youngster, my grandmother would methodically care for injuries that occurred by rough sibling play on our farm. Her compassion in caring for our wounds impressed me, and I was always amazed how she ‘fixed’ us until the next injury,” she said.

Her brother experienced medical incidents at a young age, including nearly losing his right leg in a lawnmower accident.

“That memory is frightful but indeed shaped my desire to help others,” Colette said.

The most influential person was her father, Jack Gantz, who encouraged her and her siblings to go into health care because it provides rewarding work and job stability.

“Dad worked hard as a farmer and always got excited when talking about health care job options,” Colette said. “Certainly, I believe I decided on the right career for me.”

Her sister, Tylene, works as a care coordinator assistant at Eskenazi Health in the Aging Brain Care Clinic in Indianapolis, while her brother, Chad, works as a systems analyst building and troubleshooting hospital electronic medical records specific to radiology.

Colette graduated from Monroe Central High School in Parker City in 1984 and received a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Ball State University in Muncie in 1988.

She then worked at St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove in the post open heart unit.

After starting a family, Colette worked at Columbus Regional Hospital on 2 South, a telemetry-monitored progressive care department.

“It was a busy, fast-paced environment where I learned time management and developed assessment skills,” Colette said. “It was there that I was able to work variable shifts as my husband, Doug, and I had our four children within five and a half years. I appreciated the flexibility in nursing during this time as we committed to homeschooling for the next 10 years.”

She’s now in her 12th year with Schneck Medical Center Home Services as a hospice nurse. She obtained certification in hospice and palliative care in 2015.

“It undoubtedly has been the most rewarding work of my career,” she said. “Hospice and home health nurses share on-call visits for all patients. It does feel like an extended family where we collaborate with one another to provide excellent care to our patients.”

A mother’s influence

After graduating from Seymour High School in 2010, Ackeret attended Olivet Nazarene University with plans to become a hospital social worker.

She then gained interest in the nurses who spend more hands-on time with patients, so she switched her major and earned a BSN in 2015.

“To anyone who is pursuing a nursing degree, I commend you and encourage you to keep going because it is so worth it,” Ackeret, 28, said. “When your heart is to care for and help your patients, you find nursing as such a rewarding career professionally and personally. Also, you can always find a job because it is health care, and there are such diverse opportunities in the profession of nursing.”

After college, Ackeret became an RN and was hired at Schneck. She worked nights in the medical adult acute care unit for two years and has worked at the vein center for the past three years.

In 2018, she was accepted into the Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus Master of Science in nursing family nurse practitioner program. She plans to graduate in August 2021.

“After graduation, I hope to serve my local community,” Ackeret said. “This is the community where my husband and I live and were raised and plan to raise our family. We have many loved ones here.”

Lainey, 25, said she always wanted to be a nurse. In 2014, she went to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis claiming nursing one semester and teaching her second semester. She then wasn’t sure which degree path she wanted to take.

She started cosmetology school at Hair Force Beauty Academy in Seymour in June 2015 and finished the next year.

“I love being a cosmetologist and serving my clients but realized that I still wanted to pursue a nursing career,” Lainey said.

She then started an accelerated LPN program and finished in 2018.

“Working as a nurse or cosmetologist, I get the chance to listen and love people, and that truly brings me joy,” she said.

Lainey plans to be done with school and become an RN in December 2021.

Hannah graduated from Seymour High School in 2015 and earned her emergency medical technician license from Ivy Tech Community College in 2017. She continued with nursing prerequisites at Ivy Tech, and then transferred to an accelerated nursing program at ATA College in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 2018, she earned an occupational associate degree in licensed practical nursing and began working at a long-term and rehab care facility. She now works at an assisted living facility that specializes in those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and is working toward becoming an RN.

“In the future, I hope to pursue more schooling to one day either become a teacher for nursing students or an administrator for a long-term care facility,” Hannah, 23, said.

COVID-19 impacts their work

Colette said the pandemic has changed the way home health and hospice nurses deliver care.

They wear personal protective equipment into every home to prevent the spread of the virus to patients and to protect themselves.

Long-term care facility patient visits have changed, too. Due to nursing home restrictions, they are doing telehealth visits with hospice patients.

“Older patients oftentimes do not understand how to use technology to benefit from virtual visits,” Colette said. “Our area nursing homes do allow visits to hospice patients who are actively dying.”

Ackeret said hospital workers also are wearing PPE and constantly washing their hands.

“After working inpatient, I come home and am still afraid to hug my husband or touch my dog until I shower,” she said. “I try to be careful but wonder if I am careful enough. COVID-19 is a scary disease. My faith is in God, and in him, I find my peace.”

Hannah said working with COVID-19 positive patients is challenging and overwhelming.

One time, she received an urgent call from the lab that seven of her patients’ tests came back positive.

“The weight of knowing that information during the beginning stages of this virus was frightening,” she said. “I remember finding a supply closet nearby where I bowed my head and prayed to God to calm my fears and give me the right words to be able to handle the hard discussions I was about to have with my seven patients and their seven sets of family members who I knew were going to be so saddened and fearful.”

During her own virus scares, Hannah tried to rest while on quarantine.

“But knowing the magnitude of how sick these residents are and short-staffed workplaces are, it is hard to rest peacefully,” she said. “Also, as nurses, we are programmed to jump in and take care of those in need. With this virus, we can’t even take care of our loved ones when they get sick because of the immediate separation put in place. This is extremely challenging for us.”

Proud of each other

Colette said she is extremely proud of her daughters for becoming nurses.

At the start of the pandemic, though, she said she experienced anxiety for a short time and was concerned for their safety.

“I really had to resort to praying for protection when Lainey contracted the COVID virus in April,” Colette said. “She moved to Columbus because she wanted to protect my husband and I in anticipation of caring for patients with COVID, and now, she was fighting the stubborn virus alone. I would call her often and leave off food, snacks and gifts to inspire her to take good care of herself.”

Lainey had a high temperature for 10 days, shortness of breath, weakness, sore throat, stuffy nose, dry cough and body aches. It took three weeks to become symptom-free, and she said she didn’t feel like herself for at least another two weeks.

Hannah temporarily moved to a hotel so Lainey could stay in her apartment and recover. That allowed Hannah to continue to take care of nursing home residents.

After recovering, Lainey donated her plasma to help others.

“COVID-19 is such an isolating virus,” Lainey said. “Yes, it affects you physically, but mentally, as well. I witnessed it while taking care of my patients and then experienced it once I tested positive for COVID-19. The only way that I was able to get through each day was by leaning into God each day, moment by moment.”

Ackeret also was challenged in her job, working on different units to help take care of recuperating COVID patients.

“The vein center reopened when allowed, and we have been able to see patients safely with the protocols in place,” she said. “I have clinicals once to twice a week, and due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and need for nurses, I have recently been volunteering when I can to pick up shifts on the nursing inpatient units.”

Through the stressful year, Colette said her daughters have displayed selflessness, courage, strength and tenacity.

“But really, that is what nurses do,” she said. “The challenges during COVID-19 are enormous, but nurses are accustomed to working in stressful environments. No matter what happens, whether patients have COVID-19 or not, we are committed to taking care of our patients. I see this in my nurse daughters, and it makes a momma proud.”

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