Passion for Nursing Drives Susan Hensley to Give Back
By Katie Coffin
Susan Hensley wanted to be a nurse for as long as she can remember.
“My mother had been in nursing school, and I used to dress up in her uniform,” Hensley recalls, though her mother married and never finished nursing school. “She had a pretty cape that was red on the inside. I used to dress up in it for Halloween. I think that had something to do with me becoming a nurse.”
Hensley has always been interested in mental health. Known for her listening skills among family and friends, she thrives off learning about people and what makes them do what they do. Originally from Ft. Wayne, Hensley remembers riding the bus downtown. She would stand in front of G.C. Murphy, a well-known five and dime store at the time, and watch passersby, fascinated by their dress, facial expressions and other characteristics.
After high school, Hensley attended the Indiana University School of Nursing. Upon graduating, she was offered a number of jobs at Larue D. Carter Memorial Hospital, Robert E. Long Hospital (now IU Medical Center), and Walter Reed Army Medical Center and St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.
She accepted a job with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis and spent five years working in mental health at that facility.
“They had very talented psychiatrists there at the time,” Hensley says. “A different psychiatrist would come in every day, and they would allow me to sit in with them. I’ve always been someone who really wants to learn and do better for myself. I always sat in with them, and I just learned so much.”
Hensley went back to school at IU to specialize in mental health nursing. After additional training, she began working in the Community Health Network, where she spent more than 40 years. At the Indianapolis campus, she held a variety of responsibilities including overseeing the crisis team.
She met her husband, a Greenfield native, and learned she could move with him and work locally at Gallahue Mental Health Services. She served as a clinical nurse specialist in the outpatient department and got licensed to perform patient evaluations and prescribe medication.
She retired partially in 2011, continuing to work part time until 2013 when she fully retired.
When asked to share some of her most memorable moments on the job, Hensley laughs and quips, “I have several memorable moments, but they aren’t publishable!”
She does, however, recall a day when she went into work a weekend shift at Robert Long Hospital, and when she arrived, she learned everyone else scheduled to work had called in sick. She worked the entire isolation unit with about 15 patients by herself thinking, “I can’t wait until this eight hours is over!”
In 2016, Hensle
y created the Hensley-Warwick Scholarship through the Hancock County Community Foundation for students pursuing a four-year nursing degree. With the scholarship name, she honors her late husband, William Hensley, and her parents, Gene and Betty Warwick.
“I thought it was important to do something for the field of nursing since they had done so much for me,” Hensley states. “(My parents and husband) did so much for me in terms of helping me grow and being around when I needed them. They were very special people. My parents worked hard to make sure me and my brother and sister could do the best we could do.”
The Hensley-Warwick Scholarship will be granted for the first time in 2017. Selection will be based on financial need, volunteer service in a nursing or caregiving capacity, and healthy living through participation in exercise and sporting activities.
“I think it’s important to volunteer or be involved somehow,” Hensley concludes. “It’s good to have a background in giving back. That’s what I did. That shaped my life in a very positive way.”