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Sue Stoner

Sue Stoner, assistant professor of nursing at Ohio University Zanesville, watches as nursing students practice taking blood pressure during the women's health fair held at Ohio University Zanesville.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Zanesville

Sue Stoner

Stoner addresses the new nurses during the pinning session in August 2009, just a few short months after undergoing chemotherapy. Stoner's students requested her as their keynote speaker.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Zanesville

Sue Stoner

Stoner works with nursing students Greg Vaughn, Kadi Lepi, and Nathan Murphy in the Nursing Skills lab at Ohio University Zanesville.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Zanesville

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Professor's battle with leukemia enhances nursing curriculum

When illness strikes, it can be unbearable and seem senseless. For Ohio University Zanesville nursing professor Sue Stoner, it became an opportunity to highlight the compassion required of the nursing profession. National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6 through May 12. 

Sue Stoner is not only a nurse and an educator, she is a patient. In April 2009, she was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. After battling the disease for months, Stoner recently returned to Ohio University Zanesville to do what she loves best – educating nurses.

Stoner’s life experience in various aspects of nursing, coupled with being a patient herself, provides a unique and dynamic learning experience for her students. Her battle with leukemia adds an extraordinary viewpoint to her teaching.

"Her love for teaching is a guiding light for her as she has attempted to overcome the obstacles in her life," said Assistant Nursing Professor Maggie Goetz, one of Stoner’s colleagues. "Her goal throughout her illness has been to return to the classroom."

One of Stoner’s favorite things about being an educator is watching her students grow and mature throughout the two-year program. She said she believes it is important for students to learn professionalism, accountability, punctuality, responsibility and honesty to prepare them for the role of nurses.

"The students are typically very motivated about nursing, open-minded and receptive to learning," Stoner said.

Stoner’s experience as a nurse also helped her to cope with her cancer.

"It helps me to understand what is going on. I understand what the consequences would be if I don’t get out of bed every day. I keep moving and get going," she said.

But the patient role didn't always come easy for the veteran nurse.

"I did try to help everyone out instead of thinking of what was best for me, sometimes," she admitted with a grin. "I made my own bed and measured and charted things."

This ability to pitch in kept Stoner going when she was hospital bound. The support of students and faculty further assisted her recovery.

"Students sent enough cards to cover three walls of my room. The faculty at OU Zanesville helped take over my classes, because I had to leave in the middle of a quarter," Stoner recalled. "The students were very understanding. One student even painted me a picture of pink water lilies fading off into the distance."

Claire Tiberio, a fellow nursing professor and good friend of Stoner, coordinated prayer chains and visits, engaging nursing students in the compassionate aspects of their chosen profession.

Tiberio's efforts included a lesson during which students created tee shirts expressing what nursing means to them. The students took this lesson to heart when they added “Team Sue” on the back of their shirts.

Coping with leukemia is a great obstacle, but Stoner’s positive attitude helps her tackle the challenge with the passion of a nurse, a professional and an outstanding role model for her students.

Stoner said getting back to the classroom with her students was her motivation throughout the treatments, and it continues to inspire her each day.

"This is my favorite place; this is where I am meant to be," she told students, after finishing her teaching for the day.   

Gazing at the painting of the water lilies, she added, "This symbolizes my life drifting to an unknown place and then coming back again in full bloom."


Related Links

National Nurses Week* Ohio University Zanesville

Additional Info

*Following this link takes you outside of Ohio University's website.