Thrive by IU Health

October 27, 2021

She started her Nursing Career Later in Life: “It wasn’t easy but I was determined’

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

She started her Nursing Career Later in Life: “It wasn’t easy but I was determined’

Sandy Miller serves as the team lead for IU Health’s Central Indiana Infusion Center. Here’s her story.

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

When oncology nurse Erin Fox wants to get Sandy Miller’s attention, the team member addresses her as, “Yoda.” The name of the fictional Star Wars character is just one of the many ways the infusion center team demonstrates camaraderie.

Sometimes, Miller, the team lead is also addressed as “Captain Crunch.”

It’s all in a day’s work where this team focuses on caring for patients needing various infusions – from cancer to iron treatments.

“I come here because I feel safe and I love the staff,” said Guadalupe Anthony, a patient of IU Health’s Dr. Harold Longe. A resident of Laurel, Ind. Anthony travels 65 miles two and three times a month - sometimes more, to receive iron infusions.

Miller knows the patients well – like Anthony, many come to the hematology/oncology clinic frequently.

“We like to keep things light. When one of the male nurses shaved his head we called him a ‘Chia pet.’ The patients love that sort of thing,” said Miller. “Our theory is their illness is serious enough so let them have some joy and some fun.”

Miller is one of eight nurses on staff administering about 260 treatments and office visits a week. The clinic also staffs two certified medical assistants, a lab technician, a pharmacist, pharmacy technician, and six patient access team members. Five doctors rotate throughout the IU Health satellite clinics.

“We have a small group and I love this team. We all work together to provide the best experience for our patients,” said Miller.

A native of Indianapolis’ west side, Miller graduated from Northwest High School and started her career in the corporate world.

“I went through three downsizing in two years so I went back to school to do what I always dreamed of – to become a nurse. My mother was a nurse and my daughter was a nurse and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Miller. She started nursing school at the age of 47 and was set on completing her degree by the age of 50.

“I’m very determined. It was tough but I’ve had no regrets. Oncology was the first job I ever got and I have a passion for these patients. It was easy to fall in love with what I was doing,” said Miller, the mother of two adult children and grandmother to five. “I’d tell other people thinking of a career in nursing, ‘do it; you’ll never get bored.’ If you have a passion for people, it’s the most rewarding thing you can do. It’s a true honor for patients to trust us in their most vulnerable time,” said Miller.

“We’ve had family members come back after a patient has passed just to say ‘thank you for being apart of their journey.’ When we can connect a patient with the support services they need – whether it’s a young patient starting treatments, or someone completing treatments and ringing the bell - then we know we’ve done something personal to help them in their life.”