When she was a youngster growing up in Gary, Ina Wilson harbored a litter of puppies for a week – storing them in a box in her closet – before her mother discovered the strays.
“I was always a nurturer – bringing home frogs, dogs, cats, even a praying mantis – thinking I could nurse them back to health,” said Wilson, 42. But over time, she discovered she had an allergy to pet dander so she started considering a career in healthcare.
“My family is one of healthcare providers. My mom is a dialysis technician and medical assistant, one aunt is a nurse, and another is a physician,” said Wilson, who holds a master degree as an adult nurse practitioner and graduated last year with a doctorate in nursing practice. She started at IU Health 17 years ago and has worked in hematology/oncology, bone marrow transplant, and practiced with the hospitalist service.
As patients near the end of cancer treatment, they often have questions regarding the transition from active treatment to living beyond cancer. Wilson counsels them on the importance of having regular follow up visits with their doctors to manage complications from having cancer or the treatment for cancer. She also talks to them about the importance of early detection and managing health and wellness. As the manage of the IU Health Survivorship Program, Wilson ensures that standards are met that promote cancer prevention, research and education, as well as the monitoring of quality patient care before, during and long after cancer treatment.
Wilson, who has been married for 25 years to James Wilson, a clinical psychologist, thinks of individual patients when she describes her job.
There’s Carol, who had a history of colon cancer and underwent surgery. But after surgery, she didn’t continue to seek care. She didn’t follow up with imaging or tests. As a part of Cancer Survivorship, Wilson reaches out to patients and reminds them of the need for follow up care. She also connects with a number of doctors.
She describes another patient who struggled with a deep fear of recurrence. “To just help her understand that her reaction is normal is important. It lets her know she’s not alone. That fear of recurrence is one of the biggest social issues many cancer patients face. It’s important to connect them with support groups and other outside resources like the Little Red Door and the American Cancer Society.”
One of the things Wilson likes best about her job with IU Health is “working for an organization that values collaboration and promotes a culture of caring.”
What makes her good at her job?
“I started my career as a home health aid when I was 19. I learned a lot by going into people’s homes and meeting them where they were – some needed short-term care; others needed long-term care, but it was important to recognize the individual needs of each patient.”
Wilson, the mother of two, also credits her mentors for helping her learn throughout her career.
“Definitely my Aunt Dana had an influence on me. Mary Hausz, a nurse who works in infusion, inspired me to be a better nurse and talked to me about being present with the patient – even when I had hourly medications to administer and multiple tasks that needed to be carried out. And when I was new to nursing Sara Kappel, an RN, taught me a lot about organizational skills.”
And one of the best lessons she’s learned:
“When patients are involved with their care and understand implications of recommended surveillance, it can definitely lead to early detection if cancer returns.”
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.