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A crisp white uniform and a perfectly poised hat. That’s what Indiana University Health oncology nurse Jill Rice remembers about her aunt, a nurse, and one of her early nursing career inspirations. But even as a child, Rice wasn’t afraid to help sick people.
“I think that my first aspiration to be a nurse was on the school bus,” Rice said. “I assisted the driver whenever there were sick kids. He was trying to drive, and I would clean up messes.”
Born and raised in Tipton, Rice never wavered from her plan to become a nurse. She began working at her local hospital – now IU Health Tipton Hospital – in high school, doing secretarial work. From there, her course was clear. She worked as an assistant nurse, went to nursing school, and eventually transitioned to the medical-surgery team, where she worked until moving into oncology.
Nearly 50 years later, Rice is ready for a new adventure, as she plans to retire this spring. While she’s excited for what’s ahead, there’s one thing she’ll miss in particular – the people. “There have been so many patients over the years that have had good outcomes and bad. They tug at your heartstrings. You get close to them. You get to know them very well,” she said.
Jill recalled one patient in particular, a man with a terminal cancer diagnosis, who wanted to see his childhood home one last time. They received approval for the trip – only a brief car ride – on the condition that Jill accompanied him. They loaded up his IVs and supplies, and the patient’s minister drove them. “It made him so happy,” she said. “So that moment really sticks out.”
Over the years, Rice has also seen the powerful impact philanthropy has on the health and well-being of her patients. From gas funds to cover transportation costs, to larger purchases like a blanket warmer, or simply a budget to buy Ensure for patients who have difficulty with solid foods, Jill knows that donor generosity has a long-lasting effect on those she cares for. “It’s very important we have these programs in place,” she said. “It’s really a godsend for our patients.”
Now, after 48 years of service, Rice leaves behind a long legacy of caring for others – just as she did on her school bus all those years ago. “I always wanted to have direct patient care,” she said. “That's what I enjoy. And it's good to enjoy what you're doing.”
To support IU Health Tipton Hospital nurses like Rice, consider a gift to the hospital’s Area of Greatest Need Fund.