Nurse Pat Failey: Three decades of Transplant Care

September 18, 2017

Pat Failey doesn’t mix words when she talks about the changes she has seen in healthcare. “It’s like going from kerosene lanterns to electric lights,” said Failey, who turns 63 this month.

In the early part of her career, patients remained hospitalized sometimes up to 10 days. Part of the nursing care involved sticking the patient’s pills to paper to help them learn each medication and when to take it. Now, kidney transplant patients can be discharged anywhere from four to seven days, said Failey, who came to IU Health in 1988 – the same year the first kidney and pancreas transplants were performed. The first intestine transplant followed in 2003.

A 1974 graduate of the Indianapolis School of Practical Nursing and Marian University, Failey remembers patients coming to the kidney clinic at the former Robert Long Hospital on West Michigan Street.

“We used to go to Long to see them and we had long flow sheets that hung outside the patient’s room,” said Failey. In 1977, Clarian Health integrated operations of Riley and Indiana University Hospitals along with Methodist. And in 2011, Failey was on board when Clarian was renamed IU Health.

Working for one of the leading transplant hospitals in the nation means Failey is part of a reputable team – caring for more than 500 transplant patients a year. It also means she is setting the stage for new team members. She is among one of the first group of nurses to accomplish transplant nurse certification.

Here are a few more things about Failey:

What do you like best about your job? “Seeing the patients progress. There are patients we’ve had for over 20 some years that we still get to see and hear from. We get to learn about them achieving goals like watching their children grow up or walking someone down the aisle.”

What is the toughest part of your job? “Having to say ‘good bye’ to people.”

The biggest changes in nursing/training: “The price of schooling – I got a loan for $500 that bought my books, tuition and uniforms. I think another change is we were more clinical based early on. We spent our first semester at the school and went on Fridays to clinical. After Christmas break we were in the hospital and on the floors from 7-1:30 p.m. and then after lunch, we had class in the basement of the hospital until 3:30.”

Biggest change with patients: “We used to have kids when I first started. I was never a big fan of working in pediatrics, but looking back I realize I got to know a lot of them and they made a big impact. The first person I took care of – my first kidney transplant patient – was re-transplanted this year. That’s a long time to still have a connection with a patient.”

This and That: On a wall in the transplant unit hangs a framed quilt of the familiar green transplant ribbon with words: “A Gift of Life.” Failey bid on the homemade quilt at a fundraiser and donated it to the transplant unit.

Who Knew? She attended the first Neil Diamond concert in the former Market Square Arena in 1969 and didn’t miss one of the singer’s concerts until the arena was leveled in July of 2001.

Other Interests: “I love to ride trains. I took the train from Arizona to Chicago several years ago. And from England to Scotland.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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