She Gives Hope To The Helpless
May 25, 2017
Domestic violence. Child abuse. Sex trafficking.
The words echo through the room like mortar spraying through a combat zone. Barbra Bachmeier has experienced both – mortar spraying through a combat zone and unthinkable acts of violence and abuse.
A nurse practitioner at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Bachmeier served nearly three decades with the U.S. Army National Guard and was called into active duty three times with tours in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Iraq.
She was in the middle of obtaining a law degree when Bachmeier was called to her second tour of duty. That law degree – earned in 2007 – marked a pivotal point in Bachmeier’s career.
Working at the Center for Hope inside Methodist Hospital’s ER, Bachmeier meets with dozens patients monthly who have fallen victim to horrific acts of rape, beatings, shootings, and other violent crimes.
Many times, she is their first line of contact bringing them help . . . bringing them hope.
“When you see these victims come in here, you can either be part of the problem or part of the solution,” said Bachmeier, 54. She opted to become part of the solution by obtaining her law degree and helping patients secure their legal rights.
Scared. Hurt. Vulnerable.
The victims come to Methodist with tarnished exteriors and tortured hearts. Bachmeier is specially trained to perform forensic exams – evidence that can be used in court if the perpetrator is prosecuted. She also has the innate ability to see beyond the superficial wounds.
“Why would an 8-year-old boy attempt suicide? Why would a 14-year-old girl come in with a chip implanted in her wrist? Why would a woman come in bruised and bleeding?” Bachmeier asks. “There are always clues to the bigger picture. I feel like some of these patients . . . these victims, are so beaten down they are looking for hope they just don’t know where to find it.”
She begins by asking if they want a forensic exam. They can opt out, they can stop the exam at any time and they can walk away without reporting the incident to police. Bachmeier can review their charts and learn that many of the patients have been seen before for similar symptoms. She recognizes a pattern of repeated interpersonal violence.
Even through her tears, she remembers why she chose her career path.
“We were seeing all these damn abuse cases and I felt like I needed to get more involved. There are evil people out there . . . horror you can’t imagine.”
So she offers her healing hands to soothe pain and repair damages, a listening ear to soothe emotional strain, and her legal background to advocate for the patient’s rights.
Like a detective, she practices putting the pieces together to solve the mystery. “A patient comes in with scars and healing wounds. He’s old enough to talk but mom answers all the questions. You put things in sequential order, dig a little deeper and try to get the child the help he needs,” she said. “I think our jobs as healthcare providers require us to be aware of these problems. We need a checklist.”
Bachmeier’s circle is large; her support network is strong. She has been known to secure bus tickets to help victims escape to safe places; meet with Indianapolis Police Department community advocates who can help walk victims through the legal process; and secure housing at local shelters. She’s been trained to look for the “red flags” – those indicators that a patient has been a victim of interpersonal violence.
In addition to her private practice, Bachmeier has taken an active role with the Marion County Sexual Assault Treatment Center to help remove barriers for rape victims needing coverage of the anti-viral medication that helps prevent HIV. She also volunteers with the Hamilton County Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)/Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program advocating for the best interests of children involving court proceedings.
Bachmeier doesn’t remember when she decided to become a nurse but she does know it was an easy decision to become a patient advocate.
“Some nurses just fall in love with certain specialties. This was mine,” said Bachmeier, who grew up in small farming community in Esmond, North Dakota, the fifth child in a family of six. She graduated from a class of 25 and attended Dakota State University in Fargo. She obtained her law degree from Western Michigan University. Her mom was an obstetrics nurse and had some influence over Bachmeier’s decision to pursue a career in nursing.
“I love my work. Even on the hardest days, I know I’m making a difference,” said Bachmeier, who is married to a police officer.
“We have learned there are just evil people in this world,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ve ever treated an abuse victim who hasn’t said ‘thank you’ after I’m done. It’s those little things – that look in their eyes that you know offers just a little bit of hope.”
--By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.