Thrive by IU Health

June 14, 2019

From Cake Decorator To Clinical Nurse specialist, Her Focus Is always On The Heart

IU Health Methodist Hospital

From Cake Decorator To Clinical Nurse specialist, Her Focus Is always On The Heart

Methodist nurse is retiring after 26 years spent working with heart patients.

Linda Rohyans has a heart for people and a heart for service. Is it any wonder then that the longtime nurse followed her heart into the field of cardiac care?

For more than a quarter century, she has cared for patients, working as a bedside nurse in IU Health University Hospital’s cardiac transplant unit, as a clinical research nurse in a study of heart-failure patients, as a heart coach at IU Health Methodist and as a clinical nurse specialist with clinical informatics at Methodist, specializing in heart care, of course.

But way before she found her passion for nursing, she thought life was leading her down a different path. Many paths, actually. First it was working in the radio control tower at Indianapolis International Airport when her mother was a pilot. It was a fascinating job but very stressful, she said.

Next, she worked as a deli manager at Kroger, which then led to an interest in professional cake decorating. “I lived for cakes.”

But that job, too, had its stressors. Everything had to be perfect for the client’s big day, and weekends were consumed by weddings. Rohyans even made her own wedding cake. She wouldn’t give up cake decorating, but she decided to branch out.

The medical field came calling next. She worked as a graphic designer in the medical illustration department at what was formerly known as the IU Medical Center. That led to a friendship with renowned cardiologist Dr. Jacqueline O’Donnell, who inspired Rohyans to think bigger.

“I worked for her as an administrative assistant and fell in love with the way she treated her patients,” Rohyans said. “I saw her caring attitude and just how smart she was about everything.”

She was the one who told Rohyans she needed to be a nurse. But by that time, Rohyans was 40. “I wondered am I too old? Am I smart enough?”

Fast forward 26 years and Rohyans has the answers to both of those questions. After earning her bachelor’s in nursing, she later went back to school again to get her master’s as a clinical nurse specialist.

Her work as a coach with heart failure patients at Methodist opened up a new world for her.

“That was my passion, sitting and talking with the patients. It was so wonderful, even the ones who were ornery and stubborn. It was all in how you presented it.”

The key, she said, was helping the patients identify why they needed to make changes to live better, longer lives. And it’s not because a nurse or physician is telling them to do it.

“That was a hard pill for me to swallow. You want them to do it because it’s what they need to do, but it’s not about you. It was just miraculous to see, once it became about their goals.”

It was the most important lesson she learned in her nursing career. “Put the patient in charge and then give them the resources they need to get there.”

Rohyans would go on to become an expert in matters of the heart. Professionally, she is a member of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses and has chaired the group’s publications committee. She also served on the editorial board of the Clinical Nurse Specialist Journal, for which she has written numerous articles.

Personally, she and her husband, Tom, have two children and three grandchildren whom they love to spoil.

Rohyans has spent the past four years working on the clinical informatics team at Methodist, which is where she met longtime nurse Susie Crichlow.

“When Linda came to the Clinical IS team, she had limited Cerner experience,” Crichlow said. (Cerner is the hospital’s electronic medical records system.)

But what she did have was more important.

“She was asked to join the team because of her strong cardiology background and the intangible qualities that define her,” Crichlow said. “A desire to learn, kindness, compassion, gentleness and a broad accumulation of life experiences outside of computers and nursing.”

In 2016, she received the Red Shoes Award from Riley Hospital for Children, which recognizes those in the hospital system who go above and beyond to care for patients and their families.

Her nominator was none other than the manager of the Red Shoes Program.

“I know that it is unlikely for someone on the Cerner team to receive a Red Shoes nomination because the staff does not interact with patients and families,” wrote Susan Henderson-Sears. “However, I felt Linda needed to be recognized. Despite a wide array of challenges trying to access and work in Cerner, Linda was a master communicator and committed to finding the best solution for us to serve families. She is a wonderful collaborator, and we have felt like she has been part of our team during this journey.”

Over the years, Rohyans has followed many career paths, always with the faith that they will lead her to where she is supposed to be.

And now she’s at a different crossroads. She is retiring Dec. 31, a fact that both thrills her and leaves her feeling a bit unmoored.

“I am a nurse. If I’m not doing that, who am I?” She wrestled with that question of identity before coming to terms with the bigger picture.

“I have a very strong faith, and I know God has led me down this road and that road, and they meet up here. But I am more than a nurse. This is a starting point to build future memories.”

She will use her good heart as a volunteer now, sitting with the dying in Eskenazi Health’s No One Dies Alone program, leading the health ministry team at her tiny country church in Greenwood and holding preemies in Methodist’s NICU.

And she will bake the occasional cake for family members and good friends. She will not, however, be making her retirement cake. Someone else will be in charge of that.

Her time with IU Health has been extraordinary, she said, “but I know there’s more out there to experience. This place is going to be fine. It will move on without me. And I will be fine.”

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

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