Thrive by IU Health

August 12, 2022

Nurse, mother of preemies, cancer survivor: ‘I look at patient care through a different lens’

IU Health Saxony Hospital

Nurse, mother of preemies, cancer survivor: ‘I look at patient care through a different lens’

She became a nurse because she wanted to take care of babies. Over the years, Paula Shaner’s life experiences have influenced her professional role with IU Health. Now she is part of team expanding services at IU Health Saxony.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

In a four-person selfie, Paula Shaner is all smiles.

She is joined by Joseph “Michael” Molnar, IU Health’s Executive Director of Design and Construction; Nichole Toole, Director of Maternity and Newborn Health at Riley Hospital for Children; and Nurse Barbara Hidde, who works in Neonatal Well Baby Care. The photo was taken to mark a major milestone in IU Health’s history.

On November 7, the new Riley Maternity Tower welcomed its first 44 patients - moved from IU Health Methodist Hospital. The new facility brings together expert mother-baby care including midwifery, and fetal diagnostic care and medicine. Riley Maternity Tower is home to the state’s largest neonatal intensive care unit, and Indiana’s only OB Emergency and OB Intensive Care Unit. More than 500 employees invested time in planning and resources to see the $142 million facility to fruition.

Paula Shaner and the others in that candid picture were all part of that crew.

Shaner, 51, has a couple of titles behind her name, including: “Nurse, Manager of Clinical Operations Medical Surgical Unit, IU Health Saxony Hospital - Soon to be IU Health Fishers.”

What isn’t part of that title is this: “Cancer survivor;” “Mother to premature twins who spent six months in the NICU;” and “Advocate for community hospital care.”

All of those life experiences have made Shaner the person she is today - personally and professionally.

Shaner attended the University of Cincinnati and became a nurse in 1993. She went on to get her master’s degree in healthcare management.

“I wanted to be a pediatrician all my life but in the end I realized I just wanted to take care of sick babies,” said Shaner. She joined IU Health North Hospital the year it opened its doors to the public in 2005. She and her husband, Scott, became parents to twins - a boy and a girl - nineteen years ago, and for the first six months, the preemies remained in NICU. They recently graduated from high school and are starting their own college journeys.

“I felt at the time that I could improve patient care and that’s why I wanted to become a manager. Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with chronic leukemia and was treated at IU Health North Hospital where she was in the care of Dr. Anne Greist. “Remission is five to 15 years and I’m at 12 years. She anticipates it will come back so it’s important that I have a place where I am comfortable with my care,” said Shaner.

Her role with the Riley Maternity Tower came about as a way to support staff training. Now, she’s playing a similar role in the new Fishers development. The expansion of IU Health Saxony Hospital will include additional inpatient beds, expanded Obstetrics & Gynecology, Ear, Nose & Throat, Nephrology, Neurology, and Pulmonology, along with growth in specialty areas such as cardiovascular, gastroenterology, general medicine and surgery, orthopedics, and adult and pediatric primary care and urology. The project is expected to be completed by 2025.

What does that mean for Shaner?

“My role is to make sure the processes and policies are in place so that nurses have the right equipment and proper room set up,” said Shaner.

But her role goes way beyond securing a safe and functional environment. Shaner is laser focused on training staff members in the personal aspects of patient care.

“When we opened Riley Maternity Tower I was the eye and voice of the nurse to ensure that every nurse who worked in the space was properly trained. It was an honor to support other teams. Now with the Saxony project, this is my own team,” said Shaner.

“I’ve been treated at IU Health, my kids have been treated at IU Health, my family members have been treated at IU Health. I look at patient care through a different lens. I look at it through the lens of a patient and the footprint we’re going to leave is going to be here for a long time,” said Shaner. “I’ve been on the other side of the bed. I’ve been an advocate for patients and I’ve had people be an advocate for me. I know how patients hang onto every word. I want to make sure nurses understand that too, and that patients and families receive the best information and the best care.”

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