At any given moment, Susan Little could get the call – an expectant mother is in distress and she is ready to join a LifeLine crew to transport the mom to safety.
Like a Superhero, Susan Little arrives at her shift at Methodist Hospital Labor and Delivery Unit dressed in the hospital’s standard red uniform. But at any given moment she knows she could be switching into blue scrubs to assist at the bedside of a laboring mother, or changing into her jumpsuit and climbing aboard a LifeLine helicopter or ambulance.
“Some days I feel a little like Mr. Rogers always changing my uniform,” said Little. But for those in her care “Superhero” is fitting. She’s been a labor and delivery nurse at Methodist since 2010. A year later, she was one of the first nurses to join the LifeLine High Risk OB Transport Team, a group of healthcare providers that can make anywhere from 12-28 runs a month on ground or in the air.
“We may get a call that we need to come to Bloomington – that a patient has been in a motor vehicle accident and she is 32 weeks pregnant,” said Little. Other calls are about mothers with known fetal anomalies who need intervention by NICU. And others are experiencing high-risk pregnancies or preterm labor.
“It’s amazing because even if it’s maternal cardiac or neurologic issues we’re able to have the critical care staff work with the obstetrics staff to make sure that the woman gets the best care in the state of Indiana,” said Little.
As she talks, her compassion and energy are evident. She knows every minute counts.
“I can remember showing up in Jasper and the mom was dilated to six centimeters with a bulging bag of water. She had been that way for awhile so they deployed a peds team and we made it back to Methodist for her delivery.”
To date, she has had no deliveries during transport but she’s ready if necessary. It’s something that comes with training. When she’s on the labor and delivery unit at Methodist, Little is an extra set of hands assisting with deliveries and newborns. But she typically assists a primary care nurse so that the hand off is seamless for the patient when she gets the call to join the LifeLine crew.
“When the idea of a High Risk OB Transport Team was first introduced it was amazing to me and something I wanted to do my whole life,” said Little. “It brings together my greatest loves – caring for moms and working with a crew specializing in urgent care.”
A graduate of Franklin Central High School Little says that she dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was very young. At the age of 15 she signed up as a hospital volunteer and later worked as a CNA in a nursing home while pursuing her nursing degree. She was attending a vocational technical high school when she first heard a LifeLine nurse speak on career day and she got the bug. She attended Indiana State University and fell in love with obstetrics.
Little started her career working in oncology at a hospital in Ohio and continued applying for positions in labor and delivery. She was so sure that was where she was meant to be that she picked up extra shifts at a women’s center working with surgical patients.
Married to Shane Little, an engineer, Little stayed home with her two children for a time – Scott, 13 and Sydney, 12. When her husband’s job brought them back to Indiana, she set her mind to working at Methodist.
“Methodist is where you want to be for labor and delivery care,” said Little. “I have the best of both worlds. When I get to the patient’s bedside and see that look of relief I know they understand that I’m there to help,” said Little. “I let patients know I’m a mom and I let their families know that I’ll take care of them like my own daughter. I focus on easing their fears and concerns because most of the time I’m taking them out of their hometown environment, away from their support system and I think about the care I would want for my mom, daughter, or friend.”
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.