When Summa NICU nurse Abi Daugherty began her career at Akron Children’s in 2018 she had a very different role.
“I was hired as a housekeeper in environmental services while I was still in nursing school,” said Abi.
At the time, Abi was entering her third year in the nursing program at the University of Akron and had been working 2 jobs to help make ends meet. Although she had some scholarship assistance, it wasn’t enough to cover all of her lab fees and nursing textbooks on top of living expenses like rent and food.
Abi had also become recently engaged and was planning a wedding—which meant more expenses.
“I knew I needed to find a job that could help me pay for school and would also be flexible enough to allow me to prioritize my schooling,” she said.
Abi had been eyeing Akron Children’s as a place she wanted to learn more about. Her prior jobs as a camp counselor and swim team coach had her working regularly with kids and teens.
“I wanted to get an idea of the work environment and what I thought about a children’s hospital because I hadn’t had a peds rotation yet,” she said. “I discovered they offered tuition reimbursement benefits after your first 90 days, and you were able to work part-time (24 hours), which meant I could relax a little and not have to work 2 jobs anymore. I also knew getting my foot in the door could help me get hired as a nurse down the road.”
Abi started off as a housekeeper on nights and eventually transitioned to days.
“I decided early on that this job was going to be what I made of it,” she said. “I knew I wanted to engage in the culture and make a difference for people in crisis mode, even if that just meant I was a friendly face chatting with them for a few minutes while I pulled their trash.”
Abi graduated from nursing school in 2020 and passed her NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination, a standardized test that Ohio’s regulatory board uses to determine if a candidate is ready to become licensed as a nurse). After a long wait through the pandemic, she was hired on as a nurse in the Summa NICU. Once Abi’s journey was complete, her husband, Jack, decided to follow in her footsteps.
“Back in 2013 I attended Youngstown State and was in their pre-nursing program, but I didn’t stick with it,” said Jack. “I have been working a number of retail jobs ever since.”
During high school Jack watched his mom return to school to pursue her RN in her 40s.
“I’m 25 and considered a nontraditional student,” he said. “But I knew it could be done because my mom successfully did it.”
Once Jack made the decision to return to school, the one hurdle he had to overcome was how to pay for it.
“I didn’t get any financial aid or scholarships, and we didn’t have much in the way of savings” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to take on a lot of student debt, so applying to Akron Children’s and leveraging their tuition benefits while working part time made sense after watching my wife do it.”
Jack knew the management team at Akron Children’s would be supportive and flexible with his ever-changing student schedule.
“I currently work 3 p.m. to midnight as a floor specialist,” he said. “Management being flexible is one of the best things about working in the hospital.”
“The environmental services department is a great way for individuals to get their foot in the door,” said Lori Sampsel, director of environmental services and linen. “We are often a stepping-stone for employees to take advantage of all that Akron Children’s has to offer from an educational perspective.”
Lori says while the loss of staff transferring to other departments does impact daily operations, from an overall perspective it benefits the hospital because it allows for retention of good employees and opportunities for growth through the organization.
“Abi and Jack are great examples of how well this can work,” she said. “Abi was always very friendly and supportive, she never hesitated to assist wherever and whenever needed. Jack also has the same mindset, and we know that at some point in time he will also be leaving our team, but hopefully he will remain part of the Akron Children’s family!”
Jack now has 3 years left on his journey to become a RN and will start his clinicals this fall. He and Abi are also expecting their first child, a girl, due in October.
“Going through college debt-free has given us the opportunity to start a family,” said Abi. “It has been a game changer. You aren’t going to find an employer who cares more about your own personal advancement in a career and helps you achieve those goals.”