Roxanne Stephens, of La Grande, and her oldest son, Robert Hoadley, of Phoenix, Arizona, have taken many walks together, but none can compare to a 50-foot stroll they recently took in St. Louis.

The short walk was unforgettable for the duo, who were each awarded a master’s of science in nursing degree at a late spring Maryville University commencement ceremony.

“It was cool to get to walk across the stage together. We are so proud of each other,” Hoadley said. “It was emotional.”

The mother and son, who are both registered nurses, each earned their degrees over an approximate two-year period as online students while living in La Grande and Phoenix. It was not a coincidence that they received their degrees at the same time.

“We definitely planned to graduate together from the start,” Stephens said.

The two were announced as mother and son at the commencement
ceremony to the surprise of some.

“A lot of people thought we were brother and sister,” said Hoadley, who is 27.

The degrees Hoadley and Stephens received allowed them to become licensed family nurse practitioners after passing board exams in their states.

Stephens, a certified wound and ostomy specialist at Grande Ronde Hospital, credits her son with being the one who pushed her to become a nurse practitioner.

“I had thought about becoming a nurse practitioner off and on for a long time, but kept telling myself I couldn’t do it. Robert talked me into doing this program with him and promised to help me,” Stephens said.

She said being in the same online degree program with her son was a delightful experience.

“I enjoyed being in school with my son. He was a semester ahead of me so he was able to pass things (like books) along to me,” Stephens said.

She said the experience reinforced what she already knew about her son.

“He is an achiever, and he is very smart,” Stephens said. “I was always amazed at how easy it all was for him. He is a great writer, and where an assignment would take me a week to write, he would do it in a day. He has so much knowledge and experience.”

Hoadley, who works in the infectious disease division at the Pueblo Physicians Clinic in Phoenix, and Stephens both grew up in La Grande. Hoadley graduated from La Grande High School in 2007 and Stephens in 1988. They earned nursing degrees from Blue Mountain Community College and became RNs shortly after passing board exams upon graduating. Stephens graduated from BMCC in 2001 and Hoadley in 2011.

Stephens said she wanted to become a nurse practitioner because it would further her career.

“I felt being an NP would help me to do my work as a wound and ostomy nurse better because I could do more for my patients and expand my practice,” said Stephens, who has worked as a nurse for 17 years and has worked at Grande Ronde Hospital since 2008.

As a certified wound and ostomy specialist at GRH, she cares for patients with wounds caused by medical treatments, diseases or injuries. She also provides post-surgery treatment and care for patients with ostomies, which are surgical openings.

Hoadley, like his mom, also said having nurse practitioner status will further his career.

“It will open doors,” said Hoadley, who has worked as a nurse for six years.

Hoadley said it is fitting that he and his mom graduated together, because they enjoy each other’s company.

“We travel together, we counsel each other, take holidays together. We do all kinds of things together,” Hoadley said.