Like mother like daughter: An unbreakable nursing team

For Rita and Raquel Cardenas, nursing is a family affair. This mother-daughter duo brings 48 years of experience to the field. Working together built another link in their unbreakable bond.

“The experience of having my daughter was wonderful,” said Rita Cardenas, RN, administrative director of the Center for Women’s Health at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH). “I never had a sister, so having Raquel was that female bond that I’ve always wanted.”

Being a working mom, Rita put her heart into nursing, starting her career as a pediatric nurse, and quickly found herself in the NICU providing specialized care to the most vulnerable babies in the unit.

“I loved working with children, and I loved the experience of working with families,” Rita explained. “It was my calling.”

She soon moved up the ranks to become the nurse manager, but she never lost sight of her family and the inspiration to her daughter, Raquel.

“I always knew I wanted to go into nursing, it’ all I ever thought about,” said Raquel Cardenas, RN, a nurse manager at SIUH. “I always waited for that one day of the year, Take your Child to Work Day, because I knew that would be the opportunity to miss school and go to work with my mom and see what it’ like to be in the hospital."

Launching into the nursing profession

When Raquel told her mother she wanted to go it nursing, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise, “I would always see her being so nurturing with her dolls and her friends,” Rita said. 

Raquel remembers being the kid in school who cleaned up after the other kids when they were getting sick in the bathroom, “I never had a backup plan. This is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Like mother like daughter, Raquel is setting her sights on her career, recently advancing from staff nurse to manager. She is making her own mark. “I’ve always looked up to my mother and now to see my path is going in the same direction, it’s emotional for me,” she said.

Living selflessly

For these nurses, selflessness comes naturally. Very much like her mother, Raquel gives her all for her patients, most notably when she lost everything in Superstorm Sandy. Raquel stayed at the hospital as flood waters destroyed her car and her home. She never left her patient’s side.

“It’s in your heart, you have to have that compassion and put their needs first before your own,” she said. 

“I wanted to work on Staten Island to give back to my community, but I always knew I wanted to work along-side my mother. That was a big thing for me,” Raquel added.

For Rita, the family nursing tradition is the cherry on top for her dedicated career. “When Raquel was a little girl and said, ‘I want to be a nurse just like my mommy,’ I was proud!”

You too can become a nurse.