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Cancer nurse builds bonds with her patients, alma mater

Sarah Lindsey

Mennonite College of Nursing alumna Sarah Lindsey.

Every day at work, Sarah Lindsey, B.S.N. ’00, is reminded to never take any moment in life for granted.

It’s a daily dose of perspective Lindsey gets as an advanced practice nurse at Illinois CancerCare in Bloomington, where she combines her passion for oncology with her training from Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN).

Lindsey’s path to nursing began with volunteer work for hospice. She was drawn to oncology in part because of the remarkably close bonds she builds with patients as they navigate a uniquely life-altering experience. And she becomes part of their family, a privilege she appreciates every day.

“It’s very, very rewarding,” Lindsey said. “And it’s a lot less sad than people think. We laugh a lot.”

Lindsey is one of Mennonite College of Nursing’s all-star alums. She’s taught the next generation of nurses as a part-time clinical instructor, and served for the last 11 years on the Mennonite Nurses Alumni Organization board. And earlier this year, the former Presidential Scholar received MCN’s distinguished alumni award, the highest award the college gives to its graduates. The past Helen A. Bender Endowed Scholarship recipient also supports her alma mater through annual gifts.

And her MCN ties are just part of her family’s Redbird legacy. Lindsey graduated from Thomas Metcalf School and met her husband Todd (later an ISU alum) at University High School. Her son, Joshua, graduated from Illinois State in 2011 and now works for the University, and her other son, Jason, is a senior music major here. Her three sisters also graduated from ISU, and her father got his master’s here.

Lindsey embodies what it means to be a distinguished MCN grad, notably through her accomplishments and leadership in oncology nursing and teaching undergraduate students, says Dean Janet Krejci.

“Sarah is definitely part of the MCN family,” Krejci told STATEside. “Sarah is known for her values-based caring and connection with patients, providers and students alike.”

Going for her doctorate

Lindsey earned her B.S.N. later in life, after starting a family and working in banking. It wasn’t until her family moved back to Bloomington-Normal and her kids went to school that she volunteered with hospice.

“Finally, in my mid-30s, I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up,” said Lindsey, who was impressed by how well ISU accommodated her as a nontraditional student.

She started at Illinois CancerCare (ILCC) in 2000 as a nurse clinician, then earned her master’s degree from Duquesne University and returned to ILCC in 2012 as an advanced practice nurse. That’s allowed her to see patients herself and help formulate plans for their care.

Now, she’s taking her nursing to the next level by pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree from Illinois State, a new program that prepares nurses with a blend of clinical, organizational, economic, health care improvement, and leadership skills to serve as health care leaders. Still working full-time, Lindsey is in her second semester as part of the first cohort of D.N.P. students.

Lindsey knew she wanted to get her doctorate and felt the D.N.P. was a good fit because of her interest in clinical practice and advancing patient care.

“We count on Sarah to help us keep connected to current practice issues, build connections with alums, and provide high-quality role modeling to our undergraduate and graduate students,” said Krejci.

As she works to add another ISU degree to her family tree, Lindsey praised MCN for constantly supporting its students—in class, outside of class, and after graduation. If an alum picked up and moved across the country, MCN staff would connect him or her to other Illinois State grads in the area, she said.

“It’s really a network like no other,” she said.

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.

 

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