Noelle Vann is a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Franciscan Health Michigan City. She loves her job, and she has worked as a nurse since 2017. However, nursing was not in her original plan.
Vann initially got a bachelor’s degree in sports management with a minor in pre-law. She intended to go to law school and eventually specialize in contracts working as a sports agent.
“I graduated from college in 2009 during the recession, and I struggled to find a job. I did some volunteer work for the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid, but that was really the extent of any type of experience in that field,” Vann said.
The next year, Vann had twin daughters, Skylar and Paige, who were born 12 weeks early. She spent a lot of time with her newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Memorial Hospital in South Bend. For the next three months, her interest in nursing began to bloom.
“The nurses were my rocks during that time. They spent so much time educating my husband and me, taking care of our daughters, teaching us to take care of our daughters, engaging us in their care, making us a part of the decision-making process, helping us to not feel helpless, and making the NICU feel as much like a home as possible versus a hospital. Their presence, patience, support, love, kindness, knowledge, and care made a really difficult time far more tolerable,” Vann said.
Because of this experience, she decided to apply to the pre-nursing track at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), then Purdue University North Central.
“I knew that I wanted to be to others what those nurses were to me. I wanted to be someone who was patient, understanding, compassionate, and who would help my patients and their families feel seen, heard, and understood,” Vann said.
After her time at PNW, she became a nurse at the Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU). However, Vann’s journey as an ICU nurse started in 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It was a very scary time. So little was known about COVID-19, and there were very real fears among the staff, both nurses and physicians alike,” Vann said. “This was not isolated to Franciscan Health Michigan City, these were worldwide concerns, and it was terrifying. I had already seen my daughters in the hospital for three months when they were born. I never wanted to experience that again. I was terrified I would bring something home to them.”
Luckily, Vann is a very strong person and was gifted with a great group of coworkers on whom she could rely. Vann really looks up to her colleagues and has learned so much from them about not only nursing but life.
“I had one COVID patient who was gravely ill and on the verge of needing to be intubated. I was on the phone with the patient’s significant other, and they were crying, begging to come see their family member,” Vann said. “They asked me, ‘If it was your family, what would you do?’ I went to speak with my manager at the time and our case manager. We were all tearing up, and we all agreed that we probably would have already knocked the doors down to get to our family. My manager took our concerns to administration, and the powers that be began working on plans to safely allow visitors to come see their loved ones hospitalized with COVID.”
Franciscan Health Michigan City was one of the first hospitals to begin allowing visitors for patients hospitalized with this virus during the pandemic. It was because of Vann and her brave colleagues that this was set into motion.
Vann also works as a nurse for steel workers through Pivot Health at Cleveland Cliffs Burns Harbor. She began working there in 2021 for a change of pace after feeling burnt out from the pandemic. Outside of work, Vann spends lots of time with her family.
“I spend most of my time between my two jobs and taking care of my now 12-year-old twins, Skylar and Paige. They are on the Robotics team, members of The Kindness Crew club, and are also in competitive gymnastics at Platinum Gymnastics in Michigan City, so they keep us pretty busy. I enjoy spending time with them, and with my husband, Jerome. I used to love playing volleyball and basketball, so I have been debating doing some adult leagues in the area,” Vann said.
Vann hopes that aspiring nurses today will follow this dream.
“I think if you have an interest, you should absolutely do it. The only way you feel fulfilled in life is doing something you are passionate about,” Vann said. “Nursing is such a great career to get into because there are so many different areas of practice. If something doesn’t feel like the right fit, you can try something else. It is such a versatile profession.”