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Aimee Summers was using a high-pitched voice – like a cartoon character – as she chatted with another caregiver on the elevator ride at University Hospital. It was the voice that gave her away. A visitor turned and said: “I think you’re the nurse who took care of my dad when we were here last time.”
Summers immediately began firing questions: “He’s back? What room is he in?”
She scurried off to catch up with the patient, Max Woodall of Crawfordsville. He remembered her immediately. She was the nurse who got him out of his bed and dancing.
“She’s a person who you can tell immediately loves what she’s doing,” said Woodall. It had been a year since Woodall’s first hospital stay but he didn’t forget Summers. “She just brightens up your day,” said Woodall.
Other patients agree. One anonymously nominated Summers for a DAISY Award writing:
"Nurse Aimee is an exceptionally kind person and a credit to her profession. When one of her patients was having issues, Aimee immediately sprung into action. She established a team of family members and medical staff to collaborate and bring closure. Aimee created a detailed list of tasks and then assigned a task to everyone on the team. Under her leadership she held daily meetings and was always kind, patient and caring. It is an honor to have had her as our nurse. Thanks to Aimee, not only was everything resolved, it was done well ahead of schedule. Nurse Aimee Summers rocks. She should be commended for her stellar performance."
The DAISY Award is an international program that rewards and celebrates the extraordinary clinical skill and compassionate care given by nurses every day.
“People say you don’t really become yourself until you grow up,” said Summers,” 26. “I think nursing has helped me become who I am.”
A graduate of Pendleton Heights High School, received her nursing degree from Indiana Wesleyan and came to IU Health two years ago. In high school she was involved in Thespian Society. She perfected her British accent and performed the role of Mrs. White in “Clue” and later played the role of a potential match for the prince in “Cinderella” and was part of the chorus in “Footloose.”
Ask her talents and at the top of her list is the ability to talk in various accents - English, Russian, French, and Spanish.
It’s her ability to incorporate her drama and fun-loving demeanor into her nursing puts patients at ease. The see her as a positive light when she walks into a room, said Woodall.
But there’s also a serious side to Summers. Ask her why she chose nursing and she says:
“I was saved and I felt like God was calling me to help people during a weak time. I wanted to bring people joy and fun during an otherwise painful time. I didn’t choose nursing, nursing chose me.”
She also has personal experience with those painful times. When Summers was six months old, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. When she was nearly two, her mother passed and Summers was raised by her grandparents Dewey and Janice Summers.
“They have sculpted me into the person I am. They taught me about joy and love,” said Summers. “I was young but I that experience has shaped me. I think about trying to be an advocate and remember everyone has a family outside the hospital.
“My patient is not ‘room 2715.’ My patient is Ted. Ted has a dog and a family,” said Summers. “I hope they see me not just as their nurse. I hope they see me as a person – I like to go hiking and camping. We are all people. My patients are individuals and deserve individual love, care and respect.”
At work, she says, she keeps it as real as if she were home. “I dance. I sing. I give them the authentic version of me because I see the authentic version of them.”
More about Aimee Summers:
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.