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NEWS | May 9, 2024

Korean-American mother, daughter inspire each other as Army Reserve nurses

By Sgt. 1st Class Neil W. McCabe Army Reserve Medical Command

The Army Reserve officer daughter of a Korean-born Army Reserve nurse graduated May 3 from an accelerated University of Indiana nursing program so she could join her mother serving in the Army Nurse Corps.

“She wanted to be a doctor originally, but when I was at the 66 Sierra course, which is the Critical Care Emergency Nurse course at Fort Sam, I vividly remember the conversation on the phone,” said Capt. Hyekyong Nicholson, who serves as an assistant secretary of the general staff in the headquarters here.

The captain said before the phone call that she expected her daughter to continue working to become a doctor. "She said: 'Mom, I changed my mind; I want to be a nurse."

Nicholson said she was thrilled.

"I was ecstatic," the 1993 Indiana University graduate said. I thought that was a better route for her. There are lots more opportunities for life-work balance and just more job and life satisfaction, so I was very pleased when she told me she wanted to change her journey."

Nicholson's daughter, 1st Lt. Alayna Serr, assigned to the 807th Medical Command, said her mother inspired her when she was a child.

“One of my earliest memories of my mom being a nurse was a family beach trip,” the lieutenant said. “We were waiting in line for the restroom, and a woman collapsed in front of us. My mom rushed into action, providing care until emergency services arrived.”

The incident was etched in her memory, even though she did not really appreciate it then, she said.

“Although I was young and didn't fully understand the situation, it always impressed me to see her work and hear stories about how she impacts the lives of others,” Serr said. “She inspired me to become a nurse and serve in the Army.”

The captain said her daughter finished her bachelor's in biomedical health sciences on an ROTC scholarship at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, and was commissioned in the Army Reserve.

“I am her mom, and I remember, obviously, lots of memories of her being a baby and toddler and going through school and her wanting to do all kinds of things, and then in high school, she wanted to be a doctor.”

The captain said her daughter worked a couple of years on getting into a nursing school before earning a spot in an accelerated program at Indiana University at the last minute over the Christmas break.

Serr, who was commissioned into the Army Reserve in May 2020, said she joined the Army Reserve because it allowed her to serve her country while staying close to my family and giving her the flexibility to pursue her degree in nursing; still, the decision to be an Army nurse was a process.

“I decided to become an Army Nurse when I was in my first undergraduate degree,” she said. “I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, but it took me a while to commit to nursing.”

The Indianapolis native, who grew up in Longwood, Florida, said being an Army nurse aligned with goals and motivations.

“Once I decided on nursing, I saw the opportunities that the Army affords nurses, and being an Army Nurse doesn't limit your military career to just nursing roles,” she said.

“Personally, being an Army nurse aligns with my passion for service and my interests in critical care nursing, she said.

“Honestly, I think my mom told me to be an Army Nurse--probably multiple times--and it finally just made sense,” the lieutenant said.
Nicholson said she did not think she pressured her daughter to follow her path.

“I never pushed her--I did tell her stories about my Army experience and all the opportunities in the Army,” she said.

"Surprisingly, she really liked her ROTC experience," she said. It resonated with her, so she continued the ROTC, graduated and was commissioned."

The captain, who had a 16-year break in service, was direct-commissioned into the Army Nurse Corps in 2015, said her relationship with her daughter now has a professional dimension, now that they are colleagues.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” she said. “She’s going to be my equal, and yes, she is the next generation of nurses.”

Nicholson said having professional conversations with her daughter, fresh from school, plugs her into the new developments in their discipline.

“It’s a completely different situation where it's not a mom question; it's a nurse-to-nurse or a nursing student to an experienced nurse,” she said. “She's now teaching me on the newer practices.”

In the same way, the captain said she coaches up her daughter, as she would another new nurse.

“They look at me because I have so many years of experience," she said. They look to me for guidance—professional guidance or clinical guidance—and she’s in that group, so I’m happy to teach them whatever I know, and they can integrate that with the new technology and the new evidence-based practices that we have.”

Serr said her message to anyone considering an Army Reserve career as an Army nurse is to take it on and see it through for the personal and professional rewards.

“To me, becoming a nurse is similar to starting an Army career. It can be overwhelming, challenging, and sometimes discouraging,” she said. “It teaches you perseverance, mental fortitude, and how important the process is to the big picture.”

Serr said she has found the ideal path as a nurse and an Army nurse.

“As a nurse, I strive to be excellent, because I hope that if I was ill or injured, an excellent nurse cares for me and my family,” she said.

“As a Soldier and officer, I strive to be the colleague and leader that I would want for my—future--children if they decided to join the military,” she said.

“Being a nurse and a Soldier are not things to be taken lightly, but can be so rewarding.”