Mike Embrey is a retired police officer and now a trauma nurse, and with his son Kyle working as a cop in St. Louis and daughter Morgan as a NICU nurse, he gets asked all the time if he’s proud that both his children followed in his footsteps.
But Mike and Morgan are quick to set the record straight.
“He followed in mine!” Morgan laughs, and her dad readily agrees. Mike said his daughter’s pursuit of a nursing degree and her work with fragile infants amazes him and wife Denise and inspired him to pursue his second career: “To see her grow as a nurse and the things she can do for those babies, it’s amazing.”
It has made working at Regional One Health a family affair in the Embrey household.
Mike was a clerk at Regional One Health in 1983, then left to join the Memphis Police. Shortly before he retired in 2016, he returned to Regional One Health as an emergency department tech.
“At about the same time, Morgan started nursing school. I’d help her study, and at some point she told me, ‘You should go to nursing school too.’ I said, ‘I’m too old!’ – but she pushed me.”
For her part, Morgan didn’t need any urging to pursue a medical career – it’s her lifelong passion, and she entered nursing school after graduating high school. “I was just always one of those kids who said I wanted to be a nurse, and I never changed my mind,” she said.
Mike began his nursing degree when Morgan had a year left, and for that year, they were each other’s study partner, sounding board, cheering squad. “His experience working as a tech in trauma helped me a lot with my critical care classes,” Morgan said; and she returned the favor: “What I didn’t understand, she helped me and provided clarity,” Mike said. “She tutored me.”
That mutual support has continued after both started working.
Mike joined Regional One Health right off the bat, drawn by the family environment and opportunity to work at the Elvis Presley Trauma Center, one of the busiest and most renowned in the country. After 28 years on the police force, not much shocks him, and it’s gratifying to see modern medicine save people who might not have had a chance a decade or two ago.
“It’s the only hospital I’ve ever worked at, and I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else,” Mike said. “We realize people don’t make an appointment to come see us – circumstances bring them here. It’s comforting when someone recovers, and it’s very hard when they don’t.
“We have a strong family of nurses who help each other in the bad situations and do everything we can to help patients make it.”
Morgan started her career at another health care system, but hearing about her dad’s experiences motivated her to apply at Regional One Health. “He would come home from work so happy, saying, ‘I love my job,’” she said. “I decided to give Regional One Health a shot.”
Morgan was thrilled to get a chance to follow her passion for NICU nursing at the Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center. “I love working with babies who aren’t even supposed to be viable; keeping them alive and seeing them progress and finally go home. When they get big enough to snuggle and cuddle, we fight over who gets to hold them!” she laughed.
Of course, in high-risk medicine, not every day is happy, and that is when Morgan and Mike are the most grateful they can rely on each other. Morgan’s positivity and passion for her career keep Mike motivated, and Mike contributes the perspective that comes with age. “There are going to be good days, and there are going to be bad days, but there are more good than bad – that’s something you learn as you get older, and it’s something I tell her to remember,” he said.
Both said it’s uplifting to have a loved one truly get what they’re going through.
“It’s nice to go home and debrief with someone who isn’t a coworker,” Morgan said. “We both understand the dynamics of what we do,” Mike agreed.
With that understanding – of the long hours, the sometimes heartbreaking stories, the expertise and compassion needed to save a life – also comes a sense of pride that goes both ways.
“There are so many avenues you can take in nursing, and she’s young and has her whole career ahead of her,” Mike said. “At my age, I’m not trying to conquer the world or be anybody’s boss – I just want to come to a good job. But it’s so gratifying to me to see that she’s still got all that opportunity ahead of her, and I can’t wait to see where the world takes her.”
Morgan, meanwhile, is impressed that Mike is already a nurse preceptor, recognized as a role model and point person in the trauma center. “He’s only been a nurse for a year, but he’s accomplished so much. Already, he’s the person his colleagues go to for advice,” she said.
Both look forward to continuing to grow in the nursing field and continuing to serve the mission of Regional One Health. “We’re excited about what’s happening here and where we are,” Mike said. “We’re very, very optimistic about the direction Regional One Health is heading.”