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For mother and daughter, nursing is in the genes

May 09, 2024 | Paul Taylor
UCI Health nurses Amy Dobson and Sarah Martinez sitting together smiling on a golf cart.
Sarah Martinez, left, and her mother, Amy Dobson, enjoy golfing together away from their busy nursing roles. Photos courtesy of Amy Dobson and Sarah Martinez.

As a child, Sarah Martinez remembers visiting her mom at her job. Her mother, Amy Dobson, was a nurse in what is now the UCI Health Regional Burn Center. It didn’t take much for Martinez to catch the bug.

“From a young age, I’ve always known I wanted to be in the health field,” she says. “I must have just inherited that.”

Nine years ago, Martinez started working as a nursing assistant in cancer services at UCI Health. After graduating from the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing with a master’s degree in nursing, she joined the hematology-oncology team as a full-fledged registered nurse.

Martinez and Dobson are one of the few mother-daughter nurses working at UCI Health. Dobson, like her daughter, had plenty of healthcare influences in her youth.

All in the family

Dobson's mother was a nurse and her father was a doctor at Lakewood Regional Hospital, which recently became UCI Health ― Lakewood. She worked there as a nursing aide in the summers during high school and college. Eventually she worked as a registered nurse at the Lakewood hospital for a few years before joining the burn unit at UCI Medical Center.

That was 37 years ago. Dobson is still there.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else."

Nursing as a calling

While mother and daughter work in very different departments, each with distinct challenges, both are dedicated to their jobs.

uci health nurses amy dobson and sarah martinez standing together smiling at sarah's graduation indoors while sarah holds a graduation cap saying nurse sarah and amy gives a thumbs upAmy Dobson, left, and Sarah Martinez at Martinez's graduation in 2019.

“The work is what keeps you going,” Martinez says.

“You experience a lot of loss: young as well as older people pass away. But the cancer patients we get to work with are amazing and gracious. I've met people who have left a lasting impression on me. We get to know them really well, which makes the losses very difficult. But my co-workers are supportive and helpful.”

Dobson echoes her daughter’s sentiments about the bonds she and her colleagues make with their patients.

“We have a specialized group of people in the burn unit,” she says.

“Patients are with us long-term; we build relationships with them and their families. You learn about the inner beauty of people and you help them adjust to new realities.”

In 2020, the burn unit was converted into a COVID-19 unit. The following New Year’s Day, three of her patients died, including one she had nursed for six months. Shortly thereafter, Dobson retired. But she missed the work, the patients and her team, so she returned to UCI Health. All things eventually come to an end, though. She is retiring for good on June 29.

'It's in our blood'

In the meantime, Dobson says, “I love what I do. Being in the burn unit is extremely hard. But I love the people we meet and the people I work with.”

Mother and daughter blow off steam by playing tennis and golf together. “Keeping your mind and body going is very important,” says Dobson.

Martinez also keeps busy with her 2-year-old daughter and she has another child on the way.

Mom and grandma already envision the toddler becoming a fourth-generation nurse.

“It’s in our blood,” says Dobson.