Shortly before graduating from IU School of Nursing in 1972, Cheryl Ewalt Hansell was asked to write a reflection for a time capsule marking the construction of a new building for the School of Nursing on the IUPUI campus. This past spring, 50 years later, Cheryl was present when the time capsule was opened.
“When I wrote the article, I figured I’d never see it actually opened, so it was surreal—all of these memories of nursing school started popping up; it was such an important time in my life,” she says.
For Cheryl, who grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, the memories of her time at IU School of Nursing are vivid. When she started clinicals at Long Hospital, nurses were still washing glass syringes and re-sterilizing needles. Working as a student nurse, she also recalls the first time she saw a patient hooked up to an EKG monitor.
“I had never seen one and had no idea what it was—it was a new innovation at the time,” Cheryl recalls. “A nurse took me aside and explained what the blip was across the screen and from that moment on, I was hooked on cardiology.”
Cheryl’s fascination with cardiology continued; during her 30-year career in nursing, she spent several years working in coronary care units. She also taught pediatrics at the diploma school affiliated with St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne. After living there and in California, she moved to Wisconsin, where she worked at the VA Hospital in Madison and at University Hospital on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Since retiring from nursing 15 years ago, Cheryl, who lives in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, spends the majority of her time painting. Nurturing a lifelong love of art, the self-taught watercolor artist is working to make sure every member of her family—including her seven grandchildren—has a piece of her art.
Looking back on a satisfying career, Cheryl said there were tremendous rewards in serving patients and in the bond she experienced with fellow nurses.
“There was a huge support system of nurses that I found really encouraging—a willingness to build each other up through the tough times,” she says. “It was very rewarding.”
Cheryl shared similar sentiments when she was asked to speak at the opening of the time capsule at IUPUI in April.
“I talked about how much promise there was for nurses in 1972, with so many new possibilities and a lot of hope for the future. I hope young nurses still feel that today, even with all of the challenges, I just hope they realize there is always hope for the future.”