Sister Act: Nurses Sarah & Annie Gray
Sarah and Annie are sisters, just under 17 months apart and are the last two in a tightly-knit pecking order of six children (5 of which are sisters). They’re native Jersey girls who have since relocated to San Francisco which they’ve called home for 4 & 5 years now. Sarah and Annie have shared more than parents and a last name – from a bedroom, clothes, and cellphones (all reluctantly) to friends, teammates, and cars.
If you ask them, they’ll tell you it’s evolved from a truly love-hate relationship to a best friendship. They must enjoy each other enough that they’ve together ended up on the opposite coast, in the same city, 3,000 miles away from home. It’s not overly surprising, they’re sisters after all. The intriguing, and unique commonality though is their profession. And like them, you’ll find out there’s a common theme here – “same, but different.”
Why did you decide to go into nursing?
SG: I always knew I wanted to become a healthcare professional. I’ve always been a little mother hen, which is kind of strange as number 5 of 6. I remember when our older sister broke her wrist I spent a week making her bed, folding her clothes, helping her button her uniform skirt. Our oldest sister is a Physician’s Assistant and I’ve always looked up to her and admired her extensive clinical experience.
I don’t think I realized that the nursing (versus physician) path became clearer to me until closer to when it came time to apply to colleges and think seriously about a major. Nursing kind of fell into place for me but in hindsight was obvious. I learned about the Penn Nursing program and after visiting, was 100% sold. It was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made in my life and get a ton of joy out of sharing that decision and experience with those considering the profession.
AG: To be honest, nursing as a profession never crossed my mind in high school and I had never felt a specific calling to become a nurse. Applying to nursing school was kind of a suggestion and then a progression. Throughout nursing school I absolutely questioned my decision (especially while studying for my NCLEX!). I questioned my decision again while trying to find a nursing job in the Bay Area.
But ultimately after 3 years now and finding a job I love, with co workers I love, I couldn’t imagine being in any other profession.
Do you feel like you’re closer as sisters because you share a profession? Why or why not?
SG: I do. It’s not something I’ve given a whole lot of thought to but it’s definitely something that allows us to relate to each other more. It increases the ability to just ‘get’ each other or communicate less and understand each other more. Nurses in general have this ability but it’s magnified when it’s your sister, someone you’ve literally spent your entire life with.
AG: Yes, but we also love all the same things
How often does nursing or being a nurse come up in your relationship?
SG: We can vent and laugh about a lot of things together – sometimes in a way that weirds other people out. It’s cute to see Annie in scrubs. She makes a good Trusted Health model
AG: A LOT. We understand each other’s jokes and appreciate each other’s stories more.
What do you love most about being a nurse?
SG: Oh boy, loaded question. I love family centered care. My favorite memories are the really wonderful families that I’ve been able to truly care for, learn about, and develop relationships with. Kids are truly amazing in their resiliency, understanding, organic optimism, and profound insight and honesty. Nothing keeps you more humble than caring for sick kids.
I also love the relationships you develop with co-workers, especially during the really hard and understaffed times. You go through a lot of crazy experiences as a nurse and the people you’re in the thick of it with get to see the most vulnerable, ugly, beautiful parts of you. Especially when you’re working toward a common goal that is literally someone’s health and life.
AG: I love interacting with patients and the ability to develop relationships with them. It’s nice knowing patients seek you out when they are at the clinic and having meaningful conversations, not just small talk. I like that every day is different and I never know what type of situation I’ll encounter. It’s a perfect environment for me because I like to stay busy and on my feet!
Do you think it’s important that people know you’re a nurse? Do people often realize you’re sisters?
SG: Hm, yes. I’m proud of it and I think says more about me than I’m able to explain or summarize. Though the reaction you get from people when they discover you’re a nurse is interesting – it typically is pretty black or white in terms of their understanding of what is a nurse “is” and “does.” And yes, haha people actually often think we are twins.
AG: No I don’t think it’s important to let people know I’m a nurse. I start getting asked all these questions assuming nurses should know every symptom and what it leads to. Yeah people are always doing a double take when they see us together.
What are a couple other titles or roles you identify with?
SG: Sister (is that a cop out?), wife, daughter, friend, athlete.
AG: Sister, best friend, girlfriend, daughter.
If you could snap your fingers and be any kind of nurse what would it be?
SG: Pediatric emergency room or pediatric flight nurse. I’d like to think I thrive in emergent, intense situations and would love to try my hand in it!
AG: International aid/relief nurse. It’s on my bucket list to do a mission trip one of these days!
Do you think you supplement or complement each other more?
SG: Complement. For as many shared interests and passions we have, I think we’re more different than similar.
AG: I’d say complement. Sarah helps bring out qualities that I wouldn’t have otherwise!
As one of 6 siblings, what’s your role in the family?
SG: I’d say the mother hen. Not sure if my siblings will agree there haha.
AG: I find myself as the mediator in the family.
Do you think you two could ever work together?
SG: Yes! I think successful partners/co-workers/teammates have mutual understanding, respect, and candor and those are things we’ve pretty much nailed over the last 20 something years. It’s definitely an ever-developing and dynamic relationship but we’ve ‘worked together’ in so many aspects of our lives and I’ve loved it. Any time I experience something remarkable I want Annie to experience it with me. Maybe that’s just the ‘big’ sister in me! I think what I’m most looking forward to is being moms together someday.
AG: Yes. We definitely disagree in a candid and ruthless way that some can find intimidating but we agree and get along far more often than not. Plus, disagreement is good!
Healthiest habit for work days:
SG: Making and packing all my food. Saves money too
AG: Working out, usually after work.
My work mornings usually start with…
SG: Gym before work! Nothing beats starting the day showered after a hard, sweaty workout.
AG: Eating my breakfast!
Go-to meal that I pack for work:
SG: Salads, avocado toast with hard boiled eggs, or roasted veggies.
AG: Soft boiled eggs, toast and avocado.
Favorite thing to do on a day-off:
SG: Sit in a cafe with a book or magazine or treat myself to some pampering!
AG: Lay in bed and read.
SG: These days, probably Asana. I used to use notepad for tasks but Asana keeps me far more organized.
AG: Spotify – helps for my commute and working out!
Clogs or sneakers?
SG: Definitely sneakers.
If I wasn’t a nurse, I would probably be…
SG: An entrepreneur, photographer, restauranteur, or writer.
AG: A crime scene investigator
Compression stockings, compression socks, or neither?
SG: I was a hard neither until I tried Sockwell, so now I’d say compression socks.
AG: Socks – all different kinds. I started a sock exchange at work!
Puke, poop, sputum, IV starts in babies, we’ve all got our aversion, what’s yours?
SG: After 5 years there really isn’t much anymore…I guess I’d say adult diapers and everything that has to do with them.
AG: Definitely poop.
Go-to choice of caffeine
SG: Matcha or an almond milk flat white!