As kids, Heather and Matthew Hunt hung out after school at the nursing facilities where their mother worked.

They’d entertain themselves while their mother finished her shifts as a long-term care nurse. They’d play bingo with the older adults and listen to them tell stories about their lives.

“My mom would pick us up from school, and we’d go back to work with her and stay there the rest of the evening until she got off,” Matthew said. “Probably I enjoyed the fact that her patients had hard candy, but I did enjoy interacting with them.”

It’s not surprising that Heather and Matthew are now in their first semester in UNC Greensboro’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Adult Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) concentration.

The two siblings, who are separated by only 15 months, spent much of their childhood in the Archdale area bonding with older adults. They’ve gone back to school with the goal of someday helping to treat the country’s aging population as nurse practitioners.

“I think I get along better with older people than I do with younger patients for whatever reason. I think it is just because of that,” Heather said. “We used to play bingo with them, and they would always say how cute you are. It just felt like a grandparent’s kind of thing to me.”

Heather, 35, and Matthew, 34, have always been close, and they became nurses like their mother. Together, the sister and brother went through UNCG’s RN-to-BSN program that allows registered nurses with an associate’s degree to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

After graduating with their BSNs in December 2020, Heather and Matthew applied to the School of Nursing’s AGPCNP concentration. They wanted to become nurse practitioners and have the freedom to use their critical thinking to treat older patients.

“We decided to come back with the same school. We liked UNCG and liked how they worked their BSN program,” Heather said. “So, we just decided to come back with this.”

Of course, there was a possibility that one sibling would get accepted into the AGPCNP concentration, but not the other. They talked about it, but in the end, both of them got into the DNP program and started taking classes this fall.

A DNP student practices giving Heather Hunt a physical assessment
A UNCG School of Nursing student practices a physical assessment on Heather Hunt (left) during a class at the Union Square Campus in Greensboro.

Heather and Matthew now spend every Monday together while attending classes at the Union Square Campus in Greensboro. They also study together and practice their physical assessments for class on each other.

“I think it’s good to have someone else doing it with you. There’s a lot of deadlines. If you don’t remember something, the other person will,” Matthew said. “It’s very helpful to have someone else who understands what’s going on with you with the time constraints and such.”

As much as they have in common, the Hunts are different types of nurses.

Heather works at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital with patients who have experienced neurotrauma, including strokes and dementia. She has also cared for patients with cardiac issues as a travel nurse.

Matthew worked for six years as a long-term care nurse like his mother before moving to an outpatient dialysis facility affiliated with Wake Forest Baptist.

He knew as a teenager that he wanted to become a nurse. He took biomedical classes in high school and got certified as a nursing assistant before earning his associate’s degree in Nursing.

Heather, meanwhile, took a more nontraditional path. She enrolled at UNC Chapel Hill with the goal of someday becoming a physician, but she realized at the time that college wasn’t for her and left after one year.

After almost 10 years of working in customer service and in a billing department, Heather decided to return to college and become a nurse. She’s now on track to earn her doctorate in Nursing and be known as Dr. Hunt like she had initially hoped.

Heather and Matthew are expected to graduate from the AGPCNP concentration in May 2024. It will be a major accomplishment for them, especially since there aren’t many members of their family who have a four-year college degree.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Matthew said. “It’s definitely a big deal.”

Sitting in a chair next to her brother, Heather added, “I know our mom is absolutely excited. She can’t wait.”

Story and photography by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing