To truly understand who Jacqui Huber is as a nurse, as a person, as a soul, all you have to do is ask her one question: How many babies have you helped deliver?
Huber has been a labor and delivery nurse for 30 years at IU Health. She’s watched thousands of babies be born. But that’s not what Huber talks about when asked this question.
“I don’t know how many babies, but here is what I do know. I remember right here in my heart every one of the babies that I lost,” she says. “I could name them. I could tell you the day. I could tell you the experience, so those are the ones that sit there in your heart.”
Huber, now the clinical manager of labor and delivery, spent 27 years at IU Health University Hospital in the OB (obstetrics) intensive care unit. She’s now at IU Health Methodist Hospital. She has worked in high-risk care most of her career.
Often, the outcomes of those high-risk babies are anticipated. It’s known that they will be born very sick or may not survive.
“But it doesn’t make it hurt any less,” Huber says. “I still dream about them.”
It’s no wonder that Huber is beloved at Methodist, by nurses, supervisors and peers. She is respected and admired by all who watch her at work and see her compassion.
“You honestly could not (find) a more devoted, caring, loving nurse,” says Melissa Walker, an administrative assistant in maternity and newborn health. “Jacqui is the true heart of labor and delivery.”
She’s standing in the morning huddle at Methodist, surrounded by doctors and nurses. Huber loves these huddles.
It’s a chance to meet and talk about best practices and tackle any hurdles for the day.
“What do we need to know?” she asks the group. “What’s going to slow you down today? What can we do so that we can give the absolute best care?”
The best care. It’s something Huber has been doing for three decades. Those who work with Huber say she is selfless, completely selfless.
There was the patient, a mom expecting triplets. It was a high-risk pregnancy. This mom was having a hard time staying at the hospital. She had a 2-year-old at home in Terre Haute who she worried about and wanted to be with.
One day, Huber sat down next to her bed: “What you need to know right now is that you’re the mother of four children,” Huber told her. “Right now, your three babies need you so desperately. And that’s where you have to be and that’s why you’re in the hospital.”
The conversation changed the course of the woman’s pregnancy. After the triplets were born and two of the babies had gone home, that mother was making trips back to see the third baby, a little boy who was very sick at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
“She was trying to care for these babies at home and still care for the baby in the hospital,” Huber says. “She was so exhausted.”
Huber decided to do something remarkable. On her days off, Huber went to Riley to stay with that baby boy so his mom could stay at home. Huber would hold him and talk to him and sing to him. She did that until he passed away.
“My heart and my soul and my entire life is bedside nursing,” Huber says.
Her role as manager has taken Huber away from the bedside, but she believes that’s where she needs to be for now -- being a mentor and manager to other nurses.
She said she loves her career now as much as she did the day she started.
“If I was told I needed to take a cut in pay, even cut my pay in half, I would come in tomorrow,” she says. “I’ve been really blessed. I’m one of those people that has never ever, ever questioned if I’m in the right place. I’m really lucky.”
More on Jacqui Huber
Personal: Huber is married to Dan, whom she met in high school when they both worked at McDonald’s. Dan is an IMPD officer. “He has been on the streets of Indianapolis for 30 years,” Huber says. “His life has really affected mine because that’s a tough job.” The couple has three children, Jeni, 33, Ryan, 29, (and daughter-in-law, Brittany), and Emily, 26.
Road to IU Health: She got her nursing degree at Purdue University and worked as a student nurse at University Hospital. After graduating, the couple moved to Connecticut. Her husband was in the Coast Guard. While there, Huber worked in medical-surgical nursing. She then took a job in labor and delivery. When the couple returned to Indianapolis in 1987, Huber returned to University and those 30 years began.
What it takes: It takes something special to be a nurse in labor and delivery. “Every labor and delivery nurse has to have just a little bit of an adrenaline junkie to them. Just a little bit,” Huber says. “Things move really quickly. You have to be one of those nurses that literally can change their assignment, change their thinking, change what they are doing on a dime.”