Nursing advocate, mother insists on work-life balance

cheryl wheeler nurse profile photoCheryl Wheeler, RN, BSN, is a chronic listener, especially when it comes to her patients with diabetes and her family members who need her most.

“If you really hear what they’re saying, you find out where they’re coming from. Then you have a better opportunity to help them where they are,” the 30-year Carle nurse said.

Carle consistently seeks experienced and newer nurses because of the organization’s growth and the increasing health needs of Baby Boomers. Carle nurses find a patient-focused culture to be proud of, and opportunities for limitless career growth and flexible hours to help them balance a profession they’re passionate about with life outside of work.

For Wheeler, life outside of work focuses on Rhett and Benjamin. She calls the blonde-haired, blue-eyed severely autistic 21-year-olds wonderful and gorgeous.

“Being a mother teaches you unconditional love,” Wheeler said. “You have certain dreams for your kids, but it’s important to give to your children even if they can’t always give back to you.”

Life changes

Cheryl Wheeler with sons Rhett and BenjaminIn her early 40s and married to Richard Martin, a man who had older children, Wheeler was convinced she couldn’t have her own. She said a conversation with God turned things around.

“It was divine intervention, but watch what you pray for,” Wheeler said with her always-genuine laugh. “God gave us double.”

Wheeler was on bed rest for five months before the twins were born. Together and with 24-hour caregivers, Wheeler and her husband supported Rhett and Benjamin with lots of love and attention, plus physical, occupational and speech therapy.

After her husband passed away—10 years ago this month—Wheeler forged ahead by loving and caring for their non-verbal sons.

Through the years, flexibility from Carle has helped.

“When I’m not working, I spend my time with Rhett and Benjamin,” she said. “Carle has always been great about working with me so that can happen.”

She knows that flexibility—that understanding of life outside of work—makes working for Carle special. 

“The benefit is happier people who stay longer, who take care of themselves so they can take care of their patients,” Wheeler said.

A shining light

Rhett and Benjamin Wheeler at the pumpkin patch Wheeler’s motto keeps her going.

“Everybody’s window has a crack. That’s how the light gets in,” she said.

Dr. Robert Good, who has worked with Wheeler for more than 20 years, says those cracks make Wheeler the strong patient and nursing advocate she is.

“Our life experiences reflect on what we do, what we believe. Losing her husband, taking care of her children with special needs, certainly impacts her aura as a nurse,” he said.

“We all have other issues behind the scenes. That’s what makes us human.”

Like so many healthcare professionals, Wheeler does what she does because she loves working with patients. She loves listening to them. She loves helping them.

“My daily prayer is, ‘Please let me be of purpose.’ I hope to maybe make a little bit of a difference. And it comes true every day,” she said of both her home life and her work life.

“Sometimes a patient just grabs you and hugs you, and nothing is said. I know they’ve heard me. …  It’s so rewarding when you reach them. It’s wonderful when a patient says, ‘Thank you for listening.’”

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