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Passing the torch: One sister’s nursing career inspires another

Gail Shockey Petro and Melissa Shockey pose

Gail Shockey Petro and Melissa Shockey at the Mennonite College of Nursing commencement ceremony.

On May 6, in Braden Auditorium at Illinois State University, Instructional Assistant Professor Gail Shockey Petro got up from her seat on the platform and walked across the stage to present her sister, Melissa Shockey, with her diploma cover for completing the Family Nurse Practitioner program at Mennonite College of Nursing.

“I was honored to give Melissa her diploma cover,” said Petro. “It was fun to be able to ‘pass the torch’ to my little sister.”

Denise hoods Melissa

Denise Wilson, FNP sequence leader, placing the master’s hood on Melissa Shockey.

The sisters come from a family of nurses; their mom was a nurse, as well as a great aunt and second cousin. After receiving her B.S.N. from the University of Arizona, Petro was a staff nurse at several hospitals, and then Logan Correctional Center. After working at the prison for several years, she received a call from a friend who was also a nurse and she just had an interview at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing in Springfield. She told Petro that she should apply for a teaching position there, since she had her B.S.N.

“I needed a change,” she said. “So I interviewed for the teaching position, but found out I would need an M.S.N. within three years. They hired me to teach, and I also started graduate school at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and had a 2-year-old at home!”

Petro’s M.S.N. was focused in medical surgical nursing. She received her Adult Nurse Practitioner (APN) certification from Jewish Hospital College of Nursing and Allied Health (now part of Washington University, St. Louis). She continued to teach at St. John’s and then in 2000, she also worked as an APN. In 2002, she joined Illinois State’s Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN), where she teaches Adult Health Assessment (theory and lab), Adult II (clinical and all the theory), Adult I (clinical), Cultural Spiritual, PathoPharm 1 and 2, and nurse practitioner program clinical site visits.

When Petro found out her sister always wanted to be a nurse but didn’t think she could do it, she pushed her to accomplish her goals.

“Gail has been my inspiration through my educational journey,” said Shockey. “Not only is she my sister, but also my friend and mentor.”

Shockey went back to school later in life, and received her B.S.N. from St. John’s College of Nursing in 2007. Since then, she has received several certifications including Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) and Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN).

When Shockey decided she wanted to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), she was told by many individuals MCN has the best FNP program.

“A friend of mine who graduated the year prior told me how she loved the program,” she said. “She told me the instructors were amazing, and I wanted a program which included classroom time, not online.”

This summer, Shockey will join the MCN faculty and have a group of eight students from the Accelerated B.S.N. program for a 12-week clinical in the ICU at Memorial Medical Center.

“I have worked in this ICU for the past seven years, so it will be fun to teach in this setting,” she said.

In August, she plans to start an NP position at Central Counties Health Center in Springfield, which is a clinic serving the underserved population.

“My goal upon completion of the program was to provide healthcare to those in need,” she said.

Melissa crosses the stage

Melissa Shockey crossing the stage to receive her diploma cover from her sister, Gail Petro.

As Shockey’s name was called during MCN’s commencement ceremony, she said the entire moment seemed surreal.

“I felt like the day was a dream. When Gail handed me my diploma cover I was proud of my accomplishment. Lifelong learning is very rewarding. It is never too late to obtain a degree and new career path. Yes, there will be challenges along the way. I had an instructor along the way tell me ‘nothing worth doing is easy.’ This is true.”

Petro is very proud of her sister and all of her accomplishments.

“My advice to Melissa, and to anyone who wants to continue their education is, do what makes you happy,” she said. “Don’t compromise your standards.”


Congrats to Melissa,
Gail also got me through advanced algebra in High School.
She is a trooper....
I am proud of both of you.

I feel so fortunate to know these two nurses and I am proud to call them my friends. Melissa, our classmate Ashley Dyas, and I all work at Memorial Medical Center in Spfld.. We were able to carpool to BLM/NML & studied together thru the program; and most importantly became good friends. Melissa's sister Gail was our faculty advisor for FNP III & IV. So proud to know these unique sisters!

Congratulations, Melissa! So happy for you and proud to have you as a resource in ICU and at MMC! Time to celebrate now!