Tommy Wood hears it often: “Aren’t you Jane Wood’s son?”
His mother walks the halls of University Hospital stopping often to introduce her son to fellow team members. If they hadn’t already met him, they’d heard about him. Jane Wood is a familiar face at University Hospital. She addresses fellow team members by first name and her face shows the pride for a son who chose the same profession she loves. Tommy Wood has been a nurse at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health since 2013.
“I’d like to think I had some influence on him going into nursing because when he wasn’t sure, I got him to come work on the lift team to help nurses move patients. You could tell people loved him,” said Jane Wood. At the time, Tommy, a 2009 graduate of Brownsburg High School was biology major at Marian University. A former high school athlete he had his mind set on a career in physical therapy. But a job shadowing experience changed his mind and decided he wanted to become a nurse.
Like her son, Jane Wood, didn’t initially choose nursing. The mother of four and grandmother to one was caring for her ailing father-in-law when she saw herself working in a hospital. She was 33 and had worked in accounting until then.
“The nurses said ‘you should be a nurse. You have the compassion and caring spirit,” recalls Wood, 59. Her mother-in-law helped fund nursing school and Wood now helps care for her. “She’s 88 and she swears she wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for IU Health and the doctors who have treated her for various medical things,” said Wood, who has been married to Tom Wood, an aviation mechanical supervisor for 40 years.
“He’s my rock – a very strong and supportive man. I couldn’t have made it this far without him,” said Wood, of the man she met on a double date with her best friend. She fell in love with Tom Wood and was married at age 19.
She was 37 and pregnant with her fourth child when she started nursing school.
“You need to learn to work hard and not give up. I know there were rough times, but I kept going and my husband was there with me all the way.”
As she thinks back to a career that spans more than two decades, Wood sees faces.
Chris comes to mind. “He was a 19-year-old with liver failure. I could barely get him to look at me, let alone smile.” That was until she got him a fast-food burger. He eventually got a liver transplant and still comes to visit her.
Betty also comes to mind. “She looked like Marilyn Monroe. I met her when she was on the commode with an oxygen tank and we just formed a bond and laughed a lot.”
She talks about another patient Shannon. “She is the sweetest thing and should be a model.”
Working in medical progressive care, Wood said she has spent countless hours with patients and their families during difficult times.
“I love my patients. I love the people I work with, and I love the quality nursing care that IU Health demands we do,” said Wood.
“I draw everything from my patients,” she said. “I think about the people I’ve helped and the people who didn’t make it. I try to make it as easier for them and their family to go into the next world. I use the resources here – other nurses, chaplain and student educators to help me help my patients.”
And in recent years, she’s also looked to her son for support.
“We’ll talk about why we’re sad or about the progress of a patient – not specifics, but just in general. Tommy’s more intellectual than I am.”
Her son quickly interjects: “She doesn’t give herself much credit.” Like his mom, Tommy Wood loves his patients. He never saw himself working with children until he observed a nurse practitioner, serving in home health. He saw the care that was given to a child and the family. He struck up a conversation with the father and quickly learned that the connection with the family was the full scope of pediatric nursing.
“I like taking care of patients but the thing that gets me on the other side is the ability to use critical thinking. Our doctors are awesome and thinking through things and seeing the progression and the cure is just amazing,” said Tommy. Like his mom, he’s often referred to as the “social butterfly” of his unit because he likes to explore and learn about different areas of the hospital and the focus of other colleagues.
He often eats dinner at his parent’s house before starting his night shift. The family enjoys camping, boating and hiking. And when it’s just Tommy and his mom, there’s usually talk about nursing.
“I think the thing that my mom has passed down to me– maybe not intentionally – is that she is a nice person,” said Tommy. “She’s not just about caring for her patients, but also about caring for random people. It’s just an instinct. She’s a nurturer.”
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.