It's in their blood: Mother-daughter nursing team shares passion for care at UChicago Medicine

Margaret "Peggy" McNeill and daughter Sara Ryan
Margaret "Peggy" McNeill and her daughter, Sara Ryan, are both trauma nurses at the University of Chicago Medicine. They're one of several mother-daughter pairs who work at the hospital.

When she was in kindergarten, Sara Ryan sometimes got dropped off after school at St. Francis Hospital to wait for her mother, Margaret “Peggy” McNeill, to finish her shift as an open-heart surgery nurse.

Sara would entertain herself by flipping through surgical procedure books, wandering around the empty operating room lounge and talking to the other nurses.

Years later, Sara would follow in her mom’s footsteps. In her nursing school application, she wrote an essay about how much she admired her mother’s work ethic, explaining how she managed to go to nursing school, work full-time and raise Sara on her own.

“She inspired me to become a nurse,” Sara said. “I thought, ‘If she could do it, I could do it.’”

Working in the same unit

Today, both women are trauma nurses who work in the same operating room unit at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Center for Care and Discovery in Hyde Park. Their love of nursing now extends to a third generation; Sara’s daughter, Lily, just graduated from nursing school.

Sara is an agency nurse who splits her time between UChicago Medicine and Advocate Christ Medical Center. Peggy has worked at UChicago Medicine since 2013.

They’re one of several mother-daughter pairs employed as nurses at UChicago Medicine, said Emily Chase, PhD, RN, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the University of Chicago Medical Center. That list includes Chase’s daughter, who is set to graduate from nursing school next year and is now an extern at Comer Children’s Hospital.

Shared bond and mission

Peggy and Sara rarely work the same shift, but they’ll often cross paths and stop to chat or share a meal. They’ve always been close friends, but working together has made their bond even tighter.

“People say, ‘Oh, I could never work with my mom,’ but I like it,” Sara said.

The mother and daughter nurses both strive to be a source of kindness for patients facing a surgery and to provide the best possible care alongside the world-class teams at UChicago Medicine.

“I think about what a wonderful nurse my daughter has turned into,” Peggy said. “She’s the type of person everybody loves. I’m proud that I raised her as a good person.”

Three generations of nurses
Three generations of nurses, from left to right, Margaret "Peggy" McNeill, Lily Ryan and Sara Ryan.