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Like mother, like daughter


Jennifer Thomas wanted to go back to school to get her nurse practitioner degree so she could help fight the primary care provider shortage in Michigan. 

Sienna Stevenson wanted to “do more” and earn a degree that would complement her BSN, which she received from MSU in 2020.  

Oh yeah, it helped that each would have another to lean on during their program: Thomas is Stevenson’s mother.  

“I think because we’re both nurses, it was kind of easy to talk to each other and be like, ‘Well, we both want to go back to school and there’s knowing that we’d have each other,” Stevenson said.  

“It’s good to have a study buddy,” Thomas piped in. 

The mother-daughter duo gets a lot of quality time together: Not only did they start their master’s courses in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program this fall at the same time, but they also work in the same medical intensive care unit at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. 

“I think a lot of people ask me if it is hard for me working with my mom or going to school with her, but I think the way our relationship is, is it’s never been a problem for us. We have a very solid relationship,” Stevenson said. “We’re mother-daughter, but we’re very similar. We’re also friends.” 

Prior to her position at Sparrow, Thomas was in northern Michigan working in a small hospital. 

“I’ve seen things Up North that let me know there is a need for family nurse practitioners,” Thomas said. “There is a lack of primary care, which is why I am pursuing the family nurse practitioner study.” 

Both mother and daughter admit it has been difficult transitioning back to school, but, so far, they are enjoying their program, each other’s company and, occasionally, surprising some classmates and instructors with their connection.  

“I think some of them are just starting to know there’s a mother-daughter (in class),” Thomas said. “I just had office hours with Dr. (Pallav) Deka and he was like, ‘Well, your kids must be in school’ and I’m like, ‘Well, to tell you the truth, one of them is in your class.’” 

Both appreciate being able to harness the other’s expertise. 

“It’s been very helpful having each other because we can kind of talk about what each of is struggling with and, if one of is doing better in that area, we can help the other understand it better,” Stevenson said. 

When it came to choosing which program to pursue, Stevenson, an alumna, was already sold on MSU. It didn’t take too much coaxing to get mom on board.  

“Coming to MSU, I am getting a better global education,” Thomas said. “I can pursue this degree online, but I don’t feel like they’re as innovative in research and development as MSU. Being a part of that community is going to be nice. 

“I’m going to make a bigger impact with that background.”