“Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one.” Susan Feltner, LPN, may not have said this — but she could have.
As a transitional care nurse at CarDon’s Hamilton Trace senior living community in Fishers, Feltner has a unique position allowing her the opportunity to do a more in-depth assessment of each resident, going over labs and his or her patient history.
“My main job is to prevent readmission to the hospital and to work closely with the doctors, even more closely than the nurses on the floor,” she said. “The nurses on the floor work so hard, and I can slow down and go into the rooms and spend extra time with those residents. I can hold their hands and talk to them about their next step after therapy.”
Susan is the face short-term care residents see coming into Hamilton Trace and then transitioning out — all in about a month’s time.
“It’s a stressful thing to lose your independence and go into the hospital and then into a community for rehabilitation. My job is to do everything I can to get them to that next step — whatever it may be.”
Prior to CarDon, Feltner was the resident care director at another senior living community and worked in a long-term acute care hospital. But even before going to school for nursing, Susan already had a good base of medical knowledge and patient care experience.
“I was an EMT at 18 years old,” she said.
Growing up in Colfax, Ind., a small town in Clinton County, Susan learned a lot from her dad, who was a firefighter — and the assistant chief of the Colfax Fire Department.
“I wanted to be a firefighter like my dad. I always found him to be so intelligent, and I just thought the world of him. I still do.”
So how did the 18-year-old volunteer firefighter become an emergency medical technician before even attending college?
“The fire department told me they would pay for my EMT training if I wanted to do it. I couldn’t really pass that up.” Especially since according to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, men make up roughly 70 percent of the occupation.
“I’m the first girl from my dad’s side of the family in seven generations, so when my brother wasn’t interested, my dad took me under his wing. Everyone always told me growing up what an amazing paramedic he was, but I got a first-hand look.”
In EMT training, Susan learned how to manage emergency situations and critical patients, from cardiac and respiratory emergencies to blood stoppage, along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
“I aspired to be a paid firefighter, but sometimes your life takes you down a different path.”
Feltner was in a car wreck when she was about 20 years old, forced to alter her course after three years as a firefighter.
“Before the accident, I was gung-ho about going on a roof and not worrying about those things so much, but once you get hurt like that, it puts the fear of God in you not to want to get hurt like that again,” she said. “I had my heart set on being a firefighter, so I had to begin the search for what I wanted to do instead. What now? I knew what I wanted to be the rest of my life, and when that wasn’t going to happen, I had to find something else — I was feeling my way through to see what fit.”
After a few years as a recruiter and then a contract manager for travel nurses, Feltner finally decided not to let her medical knowledge go to waste.
“I was sending nurses all over the country to nursing positions, and I thought that’s something I want to do. I want to go back to school to become a nurse.”
And Susan found something in nursing she hadn’t expected — the connection with the residents.
“I remember when I first became a nurse, I was in a hospital working with patients and saw nurses crying and visibly upset when something went wrong with a patient, and I couldn’t understand how they got so close. When you’re an EMT, you’re used to not knowing the person you’re caring for. Everything is clinical, and all you’re thinking about is doing whatever you can to get them to the hospital and keep them stable. Nursing is so different.”
It is that difference and that building of relationships with people Susan loves so much.
“Nursing has become so much more to me than I ever thought it could be. You get so close with residents and their families, and it feels really good when you can help them get home and lead a better life.”
As a little girl, Feltner hoped to do something with her life that would help people and make an impact on their lives. And she is.
“I love CarDon, and I know I’m in the right place.”
Proving some of the best things in life are those you never expected.