Thrive by IU Health

May 06, 2024

Meet University Hospital's most tenured nurse

IU Health University Hospital

Meet University Hospital's most tenured nurse

Liz Scales, a clinical nurse within pre-admission testing, has worked at IU Health University Hospital for over 50 years.

Liz Scales, BSN, RN, CAPA, began her career at what is now IU Health University Hospital in 1973. In June, she will have worked as a nurse at the hospital for 51 years. She is currently the most tenured nurse at the IU Health adult academic health center.

Finding her calling

Scales always wanted to be a nurse. When she was seven years old, she drew two pictures to represent two goals for her life: one about becoming a nurse and one about getting married. “I turned out to be a nurse and I never got married,” she says with a laugh. “Who knows where I’d be if I’d gotten married.”

Right from the beginning, while she was in nursing school in the 1970s at Marion County General School of Nursing, she “went straight into the blizzard.” Her teachers identified her as a strong student and would assign her two patients in the ICU when all other students only ever had one. She also delivered a baby while she was a nursing student and working on a labor and delivery unit.

Scales began her career at what is now IU Health University Hospital in the surgical intensive care unit, where most patients were open heart surgery patients. After 12 years she began working with the anesthesia department, where she worked for another 21 years before moving to pre-op in 2007. Now, she works in pre-admission testing.

“Being a nurse is more than what I do. When you spend so much of your life at work, it must be who you are,” she says. “I’m always looking for opportunities to help someone and listen. I have never met a stranger. I learned about listening in the operating room (OR) because you can’t see anybody's face, you can only see their eyes.”

Always growing and learning

As Scales grew and progressed through her career, the profession of nursing grew and changed with her. Technology advanced and nursing practice evolved rapidly. “Back in the 70s there was so little technology. As technology grew over time, it paved the path for what’s done today... Even though things are so different now,” she says. “That experience helped me realize that education and learning are really important.” Many years into her career, she completed her baccalaureate degree in nursing at Indiana University.

The perception of nursing has also changed—board-certifications and specialized care, as well as lots of advocacy by nurses, propelled nursing from being viewed as a “job” to being viewed as a “profession.” Scales decided to pursue a specialty certification at the age of 63, and she is now a Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA). Before this achievement, she’d never been a certified nurse. “I didn’t think I was smart enough. I’ve always been active in a professional organization, and I felt like I needed to do it— just for myself. That was a proud moment.”

Even now, she loves to learn from her younger colleagues while also sharing her own perspectives. “If you don’t listen to young people and their perspectives, you’re stagnant,” she says. “And I feel like I’m a resource, when they ask me certain things.”

Scales knows from experience that the nursing profession will always continue changing—and fast. But the most important thing is to stay focused on what matters most. “There’s always going to be a need for healthcare and it’s always going to change, because people change. But our primary focus is to be there for the patient. If I’m not serving them, then why am I there? We are here for them.”