A familiar feeling flows through Kelly Mitchell ’09 while she helps deliver babies as a registered staff nurse at Virtua Voorhees Hospital in Voorhees, NJ.
“It’s a completely teamwork kind of thing,” she says. “I work with 11 other nurses a night. It’s just constantly, ‘What can I do to help you?’ (or) ‘Let me give you this.’ We all kind of work together. At times there are things that are going bad fast and we just need everyone to kind of pull together right then and there.”
Nursing, Mitchell believes, connects people, which is the same concept she embraced as a key cog in TCNJ’s highly successful field hockey and women’s lacrosse programs. She was drawn back to campus to be an assistant coach for both teams, and this fall, the 24-year-old is in her second year on Head Coach Sharon Pfluger’s (Class of 1982) staff after enrolling in the graduate nursing program.
Mitchell, who played on squads that advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament in all four of her years as a student-athlete, including the 2006 women’s lacrosse team that won the national title, found obstetrics to be her calling during two internships at Virtua Voorhees. The hospital now pays for her graduate studies.
“I just love being a part of a milestone in people’s lives, especially first-time moms,” the Mount Laurel, NJ, resident says. “Even second- and third-time moms really remember the care they got.”
“I love kids, I love being around babies. So I’ve gotten to do both the adult and baby thing by being in labor and delivery.”At least one delivery usually occurs during Mitchell’s overnight shifts, and it’s ranged up to several dozen deliveries. She has been a part of many storybook endings, but also some tragic and high-risk deliveries, including newborns who died at childbirth or shortly afterward.
“That part of it is always hard for me, because I feel like it happened to people who would make great parents,” Mitchell says. “To see that is really upsetting. But the best thing is they come back, say, two years later, and you see them now with a healthy child.”
Family ties clearly bind Mitchell, who as an undergraduate spent her first two years on campus alongside her brother, Dan ’07, and after he graduated, spent her last two with her sister, Leigh ’11, also a field hockey and lacrosse standout. They were teammates when Kelly was a junior and senior, and Kelly has helped coach Leigh over the past two years.
Kelly Mitchell played mostly as a midfielder and defender, earning All-American first-team honors in field hockey in 2007 and 2008. During her four years, the field hockey program compiled a 65–4 record, and the lacrosse program went 60–10. She made the Dean’s List in all but one semester and earned five academic team citations, which helped make her the model student-athlete, according to field hockey and lacrosse assistant coach Robin Selbst ’96. “Hard worker, always challenging her teammates to improve. Terrific leader,” is how Selbst describes her fellow assistant coach.
Mitchell’s athletic highlight occurred in lacrosse. “Hands down the national championship,” she says. “I don’t think anything could ever compare to that.” But her fondest memories remain “the friendships that you make through the program. We really have an extraordinary group of girls that come in every single year that you really just find yourself connecting with.”
That concept helps to explain Mitchell’s bond with the patients she cares for today. She’s helped deliver the newborns of complete strangers and family friends, even her cousin last New Year’s Eve morning.
Just another game day for the team.