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Mutual admiration

How a friendship led to the perfect career

Created date

September 12th, 2014
In Signatures Restaurant, student server Sean Kilcullen serves his sister Caitlin and Ann’s Choice resident Jean Novia. A former server herself, Caitlin’s friendship with Jean inspired her to become a nurse.
In Signatures Restaurant, student server Sean Kilc

Although its 2,100-member population might make Choice sound like a large and impersonal place, people who move there form strong friendships. 

What’s even more remarkable is they form them not only with their neighbors at the Erickson Living community in Bucks County, Pa., but with student servers who work in its four restaurants and Acorn Pub.

Take the unique relationship between resident Jean Novia and former server Caitlin Kilcullen, for example.

Special influence

When they’re not wintering in Arizona, the Novias, who moved from Orleans, Pa., eat dinner each evening in Signatures Restaurant. That’s where Caitlin worked as a waitress; it was her very first job.

“We saw her almost every night,” says Jean. “Even if she wasn’t our waitress, she’d come to say hello, and we’d have a conversation. She became very special to us.”

The feeling was mutual. But for Caitlin, it led to a career-changing decision. 

She and Jean met during Caitlin’s second year on the job. The Warminster resident was a high school sophomore. 

“Jean often talked about nursing because that was her profession,” says Caitlin. “She said she felt she accomplished something each time she went in to work. She bonded with patients, and she even helped save a life.”

Jean’s career took her from a hospital setting to a doctor’s office and then to 18 years at Chestnut Hill Hospital. “You’re a nurse for life,” she told Caitlin.

Caitlin liked that idea. She’d dreamed of going to medical school because she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. But Jean made nursing sound so rewarding that she rethought her decision. And when she investigated nursing schools, “The first one I visited, I decided nursing was for me,” Caitlin says.

She worked at Ann’s Choice until her sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh’s school of nursing. Then she and Jean kept in touch via email.

Still serving

Since receiving her degree and passing her boards this spring, Caitlin works at the Mercy campus of Pitt’s medical center. Many of her patients are older adults, the group she most wants to serve. 

That desire, too, was forged at Ann’s Choice. Because Caitlin saw the same residents every evening, she learned how to better communicate and build relationships with them. 

She still does that now, but in a hospital instead of a restaurant.

“I love listening to patients talk about their lives,” she says. “Their stories are so different from anything I’m experiencing today.” 

Jean delights in Caitlin’s choice of careers and thinks Ann’s Choice did play a role. “It was good for Caitlin to work with us,” she says. “She’s a caring person and went out of her way to respond to requests.

“All the student servers are friendly, patient, and smart,” she adds. “It’s wonderful to mix the younger and the older people. They learn from us, and we learn from them.”

Caitlin’s younger brothers, Tim and Sean, followed her to Ann’s Choice for their first jobs. When Sean graduated from high school this year, he, like his siblings, received a scholarship funded by residents’ donations to the community’s scholarship fund.