“There were not many baccalaureate-prepared nurses at that time, and [we] challenged the system,” she said. “We held patient-care conferences, sat on patients’ beds when we talked with them, and at times, shared our tears. We also were the first nurses to wear pantsuits at Union Hospital and stopped wearing our caps.” The rigor of Indiana State’s new nursing program left her “confident and competent” when she graduated, she said. “We got such a great education that really set us forward on a career path…. [Indiana State] really inspired that lifelong learning,” she said, “that quest to keep your practice on the cutting edge.” Wheeler worked as a staff nurse, clinical nurse specialist, nurse educator and dean of nursing. She researched the needs of women who experience loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. She used her Indiana State experiences to provide guidance and instruction to her own students. “Going to college is more than just getting a theoretical education,” she said. “It’s also getting to meet a wide variety of people who are very different from you…. You learn there are a lot of similarities among people, and then there are some differences that you will learn to appreciate.”
These days, Wheeler is writing a chapter on adolescent pregnancy loss and a second edition of “When a Baby Dies: A Handbook for Healing and Helping,” a book she authored with co-researcher Rana Limbo. Through her research, Wheeler said she learned more about how women of all ages cope with an early pregnancy loss. While some grieve the loss of a child through miscarriage or the termination of a pregnancy just as they would a loss via stillbirth or infant death, “different women feel differently,” she said. “We need to become better listeners as health care professionals,” she said. “With (today’s) technology, people have their heads down and they may or may not be listening.” Wheeler credits Indiana State for giving her a firm foundation for her career. “ISU is creating futures for its students,” she said. “It’s doing that now, but it also did that back in the ‘60s for those of us in the nursing program.” Wheeler was a 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award and recently joined other alumni in marking the 50th anniversary of the nursing program.