OR Nurse – The “Grandma” Of Transplant

Nurse Lisa Jennings has worked in transplant OR at University Hospital for 19 years and has been with IU Health for 24 years. She’s known among her peers as the “Grandma” of transplant OR. 

Looking at her track record as an operating room nurse in transplant, it would be hard to believe that at one time Lisa Jennings thought she might want to be a school bus driver. And after 24 years with IU Health it might also be hard to believe that at one point her high school guidance counselor didn’t think Jennings was suitable college material.

But looking back at the path that brought her to nursing makes all the sense in the world.

An only child, Jennings was raised by her mother Ruby Grosdidier, who worked in public relations at the former Wishard Hospital. “When mom was working and I didn’t have anything to do, she’d say, ‘come to work with me,” said Jennings. But instead of hanging out in her mom’s office, Jennings headed to the hospital where she eventually became a volunteer in the outpatient surgery clinic. She was just 16.   

She grew up on Indy’s west side, graduated from Ben Davis High School and completed her ASN at Marian University and her BSN at IU.  She started her career with IU Health working in ICU at Riley Hospital for Children.

“I always knew I wanted to be an OR nurse from the time I was in clinicals. I was just drawn to OR. When I was at Riley I saw there was an opening in transplant and after a six-month orientation I walked in and knew that was my home, where I was meant to be,” said Jennings. Married to Chris Jennings, who serves as the state chief warrant officer and served a tour in Kuwait, Jennings is the mother to two boys 34 and 30 and twin girls, age 15. She is also a grandma to two girls.

“As a mom and a transplant OR nurse, I was working a lot of strange hours. I’d get the call and leave and I could be in line at the grocery store,” said Jennings. So for a time, she thought she wanted a more predictable schedule and left OR to work as a transplant coordinator.   

“It was rewarding to see the patients at their worst and then see them through recovery. I still see some of my patients and keep in touch through Facebook,” said Jennings. But she missed the OR and eventually returned to surgery.

She has worked alongside the transplant team and surgeons for so long that her role has become second nature.  During surgery, she is either responsible for prepping and bringing the patient to the operating room, or she is scrubbing in – handing instruments to the attending surgeon.

“I remember when I first time I started in OR, I felt like the most stupid nurse in the world. It’s totally different than bedside nursing and what you learn in clinicals. You have to know all the instruments and what the surgeons preferences are,” said Jennings. “That’s the nice thing about having a dedicated transplant team. The surgeons just hold out their hands and we know what instrument they want. We do so many transplant cases at IU Health that it’s like a well-oiled machine.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.