IU Health Methodist Hospital

​ ‘I love what I do and I thank God every day that I make it through’

We are IU Health

February 12, 2019

For three decades, she has cared for the sickest patients in IU Health Methodist’s cardiovascular critical care unit.

Pat Miller remembers the night she went out to get a six-pack of beer for a patient. The doctor on duty OK’d it then – this was decades ago – and there were special circumstances.

She remembers the heartbreak she felt when a terminally ill female patient decided to end treatment – on her birthday.

She was there for the first lung transplant and for many joyous reunions with former patients along the way.

Miller has been on IU Health Methodist Hospital’s cardiovascular critical care unit for all the highs and lows possible in a 32-year span.

Over those three-plus decades, she has held pretty much every post a nurse could have in that unit, caring for critically ill heart and lung patients. She’s worked days and nights as a bedside nurse, shift coordinator, patient care manager, ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) clinician and ECMO clinician manager.

The latter job was perhaps the most difficult, she said. ECMO is a therapy offering prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to the sickest patients.

“I realized this was not the job for me, and I asked to step down,” she said.

There was too much stress, too much fear, even though she knew she could do the job.

“The more you know, the scarier it can be.”

Her favorite role on the 34-bed unit is bedside nurse. It’s what she knows and loves.

“It just brings me back to the care that I can give, what I can do for them, the joy I get from that.”

Miller, wife and mother of two, grandmother of five, was almost destined to spend her career at Methodist. She was born in the hospital, and she delivered her younger daughter here. She thought she wanted to be a surgical nurse, but when she interviewed for a job at Methodist after graduation from nursing school, she found the CVCC to be the best of all worlds.

“I’m glad I stayed here. Nothing seemed to fit as well as working here, and I love our physicians.”

Unofficially, Miller has had another role on the unit – that of trainer. She’s trained most of the younger nurses she works with, including her own boss, Jessica Jones, manager of clinical operations.

“I trained Jessica as a new grad,” she said. “At one time when I was working nights, I looked at the day nurses and realized I trained every one of them.”

Jones said Miller saw something in her that she didn’t see herself. “Pat is the one who said to the manager in charge at the time that I should be a charge nurse. I would never have said, ‘sign me up.’ She’s the one who advocated for me.”

Miller is the perfect nurse in Jones’ opinion. “She has the clinical expertise, she’s well-respected, and she does what’s right for the patient. She hasn’t lost steam. She’s just continued to be vigilant in everything.”

That vigilance has a price, though. Miller, who works three 12-hour shifts a week, says critical care is a young person’s game, “or for stubborn old people who won’t give it up,” she laughed. Retirement by the end of 2020 is not out of the question. After all, she has five grandkids to spoil.

“I love what I do and I thank God every day that I make it through. I say, ‘Lord, just get me through another day,’ and he always does.”

–- By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist
Email: mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

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