Thrive by IU Health

March 20, 2022

Social worker applauds courage of patients with cystic fibrosis

Social worker applauds courage of patients with cystic fibrosis

March is Social Worker Appreciation Month – a time to recognize team members who help patients face the complexities of their daily lives. This social worker celebrates the successes of her patients.

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

She first sensed it in high school – the stigma that often contributes to symptoms of mental and social health.

“I’m thankful I experienced the work of a social worker at a young age and saw the good they can do. Depression and anxiety can be tough in high school. People don’t talk about it and I think we need to talk about it with younger generations. Being honest and seeking help makes all the difference in healing,” said Olivia Hansen.

Those personal experiences have helped her in her professional life. She joined IU Health two and half years ago and works in the outpatient cystic fibrosis clinic at IU Health University Hospital.

“She is an amazing, dedicated, versatile and compassionate social worker,” said veteran social worker Sarah Hale. “Everyone who meets Olivia is blown away by her genuine empathy and caring.”

Hansen grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind. and graduated from Carroll High School where she was a track and field standout. Her high school accomplishments included: Conference, Regional, and Semi-State Championships and Academic All-State. Honoree. She is also a Chargers’ recorder-holder team member for the 4x800m relay. Hansen is the middle child of Daniel and Lisa Hippensteel.

Hansen is married to her high school sweetheart, Connor. They started dating her senior year and were crowned prom queen and king.

After high school Hansen attended IU Bloomington, where she continued her running career achieving Academic Big Ten status, a Runner-up at the Hoosier Invitational and a top contender at Big Ten and NCAA Championships.

She completed her undergraduate degree in public health and received her master’s degree in social work.

“I spent a summer working at a residential treatment facility in Fort Wayne and we did a lot of interventions with kids. I realized that for many of the children it came down to their families. A lot of them didn’t have healthy family lives or maybe there was a history of mental health, financial concerns and stress. I felt if there was a way to proactively prevent these things from happening to people, we should,” said Hansen, 27.

When a position opened up at IU Health to work with a team of practitioners focused on the needs of patients with cystic fibrosis, Hansen was all in.

“A lot has been changing in the past three years with cystic fibrosis. Prior to November 2019 a lot of patients were admitted for cystic fibrosis exacerbation. Being in the hospital so often is life limiting,” said Hansen.

Cystic Fibrosis is a rare genetic disease caused by mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTCR). In October 2019, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Trikafta to treat patients with Cystic Fibrosis (ages 12 and older). The medication is a CFTR modulator that helps defective CFTR proteins work more effectively. As a result, patients spend less time in the hospital.

“The new medication has changed the patient’s quality of life. It brings them new identity. They can now think about working, going to college, their futures,” said Hansen.

“We have about 300 patients and I’ve gotten to know them so well and it’s been incredible to see their changes, and their triumphs and courage. Working with an incredible team of pharmacists, nurses, doctors, dietitians, makes the environment so dynamic and proactive when it comes to patient care,” said Hansen.

“I see my patients at a minimum once every three months. When I see they can benefit from mental health counseling, I’ll encourage them to take those extra steps and when I hear they are following through, I could just dance,” she said.