Nurse, Mother of Six: “Don’t Let a Bumpy Road Stand in Your Way”

She beams when she talks about the title on her IU Health badge: “RN” – and for good reason. Tiea Madden’s graduation was one of three in her family within a year. When she received her Associate degree in healthcare support with a clinical concentration it was the first time she walked across the stage to receive a diploma.

That walk was all it took to propel her toward her Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I always wanted to be a nurse. My grandmother was a nurse and I remember seeing her graduation picture where she was all dressed in the white uniform with the white cap. I loved that and always admired that,” said Madden, 46. The thing is, that dream didn’t become a reality until a few months ago.

Madden grew up in Indianapolis one of 10 children in a blended family.

“It was a challenging environment. I was in sixth grade, age 12 when I had my first child,” said Madden. At the age of 11 she moved to California to be closer to extended family but eventually returned to Indianapolis and attended high school through her junior year. It was tough raising a child so young and she eventually dropped out of school to care for her daughter.

“As my family put it to me ‘I was no longer a kid and everything I did from that point forward would be for my daughter.’ The playtime was over but the truth is I always felt like I was in an adult position. I was always taking care of my siblings so it wasn’t really that much different,” said Madden. She began working as a sales associate for Value City and said that is where she found one of her greatest support systems – co-workers who became lifelong friends.

She was working toward her GED when her second child was born, a son named Blake. Two years later she had twins, a girl named Tayler and a boy named Tyler.

“They were delivered at Methodist Hospital and one was born natural and one was born by cesarean. One was born before midnight on July 7 and one was born after midnight. So they have different birthdays,” said Madden.

With four children to support Madden went to work at Firestone as a press operator and in the maintenance area where she was responsible for quality control and inspection. She also learned as much as she could about first aid and received training to be on the first responder and Hazmat teams. She continued working at Firestone for 15 years. She bought a house and began traveling, taking her family on vacations to Disney and Branson. She also enjoyed trips to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cancun, and the Mexican Riviera. The father of her youngest two children, David Hamilton, shared some of those trips, a man she met in 2005. Four years later she began working on her associate degree that included an EKG certification. As part of her training she was required to complete an externship and 60 EKGs. That’s when Madden came to IU Health Methodist Hospital. Once she completed her degree in 2012, she joined the heart station team at Methodist.

With 57 transferrable credits, two years ago Madden took advantage of the IU Health tuition assistance program and enrolled in nursing school.

“It took two years and a couple of months but I did it. I finally accomplished something I’ve always wanted to do and didn’t ever think I’d get here. I’m so proud to be a nurse,” said Madden. On Thanksgiving week last year, she began working on the Medical Progressive Care Unit at IU Health University Hospital.

“Our unit is one of the top in the country and our patient population accounts for about 50 percent of the healthcare industry. It keeps me thinking outside the box, constantly engaged and asking questions,” said Madden. “Most of my patients are severely ill – that’s the reality of the unit. I want my patients and families to know I gave my all and at the end of day everything was done for the benefit of the patient.”

She describes spending time with the family at the end of a patient’s life.

“It’s a hard thing to watch from all aspects – whether it’s me or the family members. So I wanted to be sure their loved one was completely comfortable going to a peaceful place,” said Madden. “It was difficult because I had actually got this patient up in the morning and six hours later they were gone. Being there through the whole process made me part of the process. In the end we all embraced. Each family member showed such appreciation.”

What motivates her in her career has also driven her at home – as a mother and as a caregiver to her mother, diagnosed with cancer.

Her first daughter, Whitney, is now 33 and has a 12-year-old child of her own. Like her mother, she also works in healthcare as a certified medical assistant and recently earned her degree in human resources management. Her second child graduated from IU last year and moved to Chicago where he is working in global logistics. Her twins just turned 25, and her two youngest sons, David and Davin are 12 and 10.

“I’ve never been that person that says, “I’m not going down this road because it’s too bumpy. Instead, I make my own path around it,” said Madden, who is now working toward her degree as a nurse practitioner. There’s always an alternative. You define your own destiny and create your own pathway. I’ve tried to instill in my children ‘you can be anything you want to be. It doesn’t matter what others say, it’s up to you.’ I believe I give my children all the necessary things they need to nurture, grow and have a realistic view of what life is. My kids won’t step out in the world and be fooled.”

–By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email