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Mother and daughter share milestone

Heather and Peyton Harmon(1)

Heather and Peyton Harmon have spent a lot of time together over the past couple of years. The mother and daughter duo have attended many of the same classes, gone on hospital rotations together and completed more than 500 hours of community service. In August, they shared another significant milestone — they both received their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.


“I could not have imagined this experience without her,” said Heather, 43, who plans to become an operating room nurse. “Most 20-year-olds don’t like hanging out with mom. UNF gave us a chance to take this on, and they were there every step of the way.”


There is no doubt that hardships and heartaches sparked their passion for healthcare. Peyton was only 12 when Heather became ill following a surgery. For five years, Peyton cared for her mother and younger sister while her mom endured surgeries to repair a collapsed spine and regain her ability to walk. The experience empowered Heather to become a nurse, while Peyton also recognized that caring for her mother changed her life. “I realized I wanted to be able to help other people,” she said.


Early in the nursing program, Peyton’s dad was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Months later, he passed away on Christmas Day. “The death of my father was my biggest obstacle,” Peyton said. “The program seemed to get harder after that, but that helped me identify with patients.”  Likewise, Heather said she knew that he wanted them to keep going. “We continued in honor of him.”


Both credit Dr. Linda Connelly, assistant professor of nursing, with keeping them focused during the difficult time. “I’m very proud of their resilience,” Connelly said. “They pulled it together, showed up and did what needed to be done. I think they have great careers ahead of them.”


Among 44 students chosen for the program from more than 500 applicants two years ago, both were accepted into the university’s Sigma Alpha Lambda honor society, and Peyton was inducted into the School of Nursing’s honor society, Sigma Theta Tau, graduating in the top third of her class.


“I have enjoyed this experience with my mom and being able to share our passions together,” said Peyton, who aspires to specialize in emergency medicine at a level one trauma center.


“She is there to support me when I need her, and I’m here for her, too.”