Thrive by IU Health

June 08, 2023

Nurse educator saying goodbye after 45-year career

Nurse educator saying goodbye after 45-year career

Three generations of one family have served Methodist and Riley over a 77-year period. For Methodist nurse Susan Biggs, who is retiring Friday, it’s all about the people.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Susan Biggs remembers how proud she was of her own mother nearly 50 years ago when the widowed mother of three went back to school to get her nursing degree.

Biggs was in high school at the time. Her father had died from complications of type 1 diabetes when she was 10, and her mother soldiered on, raising three kids before remarrying.

Noreen Feller went on to work for 15 years at Riley Hospital for Children as a nurse working primarily with orthopedic patients and teaching on the unit.

“She helped start the scoliosis screening program in Indiana,” Biggs said of her mom. “I really admired her.”

She set the example for Biggs, who carved out a 45-year career as a nurse and nurse educator (now known as Nursing Professional Development practitioners) at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

Biggs is retiring Friday.

Patricia Stanifer holding nursing photos of her grandmother, mother and herself. The text says "Three Generations of Excellence"

Biggs’ daughter, Patricia Stanifer, followed in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps and earned her own nursing degree. She joined the team at Riley Hospital for Children 17 years ago as a PICU nurse, advancing over the years to preceptor, advisor, charge nurse and now NPD practitioner in Riley’s emergency department.

That’s a combined 77 years of service the three women have given to IU Health hospitals.

A picture of the three will be one of the last items to leave Biggs’ office at Methodist when she says goodbye to her teams and all of the people who have made Methodist Hospital her home away from home for more than four decades.


Biggs, who started out in the Methodist Children’s Pavilion, said she almost left nursing in 1980 because it was so overwhelming, but a smart, kind manager in another department took the time to talk to her and led her on a journey to discover her love for hemodialysis, kidney transplant and teaching.

“Because my dad had severe diabetes, my dream was to find a cure.”

She’s passing that dream on to the younger generation, including her son, Charles, who works as an engineer focused on diabetes medication production at Eli Lilly and Co., where her husband, Randy, also worked before retiring. Her daughter-in-law, Erin, is a social worker in the Riley Outpatient Center.

Biggs took on a clinical educator role in 1987, with responsibilities over the years in diabetes, renal, transplant, oncology, resource center, orthopedics, behavioral health, stroke, med/surg, acute medicine and comfort care.

She is bullish on IU Health educators.

“The IU Health Nursing Professional Development team is second to none,” Biggs said. “So many clinical educators through the years have mentored and supported me in my journey.”

She did the same for hundreds of others.

“My joy in my job has been with the people I work with and being a small part of their advancement. The people caring for patients on B5/C5, B7 and acute dialysis are an amazing team, and I will miss them dearly.”

Susan Biggs nursing photo

Having connections with others on the unit makes for a stronger team, she said. It creates trust, which benefits patients and team members alike.

Maybe that’s why all three of her unit managers have been with her for many years.

“Most I’ve watched go from students to shift coordinators to managers,” Biggs said. “We’ve had long-term relationships, and they believe in connection with their staff. We know the younger generation doesn’t like to stay in one place very long, but I’m proud to say that those on my units have a lot of tenure.”


One of those managers ran into Biggs on the elevator last week. Kellie Stull is clinical manager for B5-C5 – comfort care and renal metabolic – at Methodist. She recently celebrated her 35th work anniversary.

“This elevator ride is not long enough,” Stull said when asked to share thoughts about Biggs. “I have been grieving,” she said, her eyes filling with tears at the thought of Biggs retiring. “I’m going to miss her so badly. She knows everything, she’s kept everything, she can find everything. I’m kind of in denial.”

The elevator ride is over too quickly, but Stull keeps talking as she steps out.

“Sue is nurturing, has great attention to detail, great follow-through and a genuine servant’s heart. She’s absolutely the best. She has good systems in place, and she really cares about the staff and their success.”

Biggs, who has watched with pride as Stull advanced from student to manager, returns the compliment.

“Kellie is fabulous, and her staff loves her.”

As a third-generation nurse with IU Health, Stanifer can’t help but be proud, especially when she thinks of the impact her mom and grandmother made over the years.

“Not only did my mother and grandmother help me choose nursing, but my mother is one of the big reasons why I'm an NPD also,” the Riley educator said. “She influenced me to continue her legacy through NPD and nursing at IU Health.”

Susan Biggs smiling and talking to another nurse

Barbara Low is another manager who comes by as Biggs is showing visitors the dialysis unit.

“I count on Sue,” Low said. “She’s the keeper of all. We’ve worked together for probably 25 years.”

The modern dialysis unit, which saw as many as 800 acute treatments a month during the worst of COVID, is a far cry from Biggs’ early days working in nearby Wile Hall.

“My first hemodialysis patient was on an RSP coil dialysis machine (it looked like a washing machine, she said) located in the Wile Hall outpatient unit. In high school, my church raised money for Methodist Hospital to provide hemodialysis machines.”

At that time, some patients had to travel several hours to Indianapolis for dialysis treatments, she said. Nurses from northern and southern Indiana would visit Methodist to learn about its acute dialysis unit.

Now, of course, dialysis treatment centers can be found throughout Indianapolis and cities across America.


As Stanifer joins her mom on one of her last walks through Methodist, she talks about the impact the women in her family have had on her nursing career.

“I’m proud they stuck with healthcare – there are tons of ups and downs – and they helped me stay grounded and keep going,” she said. “You find the people you can love on, and make them know they matter, that they’re not just a number.”

Susan Biggs and Patricia Stanifer smiling and holding the picture with their nursing photos

Nurses can chase more money, but when it comes to feeling valued and part of a team, mother and daughter say they take pride in knowing their units are among the best.

“I have been fortunate to have strong managers, and there’s a real team approach,” said Biggs, who resisted the suggestion from her family that she consider retiring during COVID.

“I needed to keep loving on these people,” she said. “They’re my unit, I have to stay with them.”

As she prepares for life outside of Methodist, Biggs looks forward to more time with her family, including her two kids and four grandkids, her parents and her husband.

“I had to pray a lot to make this decision. I’m at a good place now, but it’s been a journey to get to this.”

She laughs when she talks about how she and her husband used to bop around on his motorcycle when they were in their 20s, before life with young kids. Now, her husband has a new bike, and they’re ready to hop back on and recapture the magic.

They just returned from a trip to Scotland, are headed to Tennessee this summer and are planning a trip to Israel in September. Between travels, she plans to “explore and learn new things,” volunteer more for Gleaners Food Bank, the National Kidney Foundation and her church, and spend quality time in her garden.

As she closes the door on her nursing career, it’s clear that she wouldn’t trade her experiences for the world.

“I’ve loved being a small part of this special family. I’m honored and blessed to have worked at Methodist Hospital all of my nursing career.”

Photos provided and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,