Ann O’Heir, President and CEO of the VNA of Northwest Indiana, is a devoted nurse who has spent the past 30 years in service to others.
Born and raised in Lansing, Illinois, O’Heir attended Thornton Fractional South High School, where she was a member of the swim team and choir, and spent her summers at her family’s cottage in Michigan. In her spare time, one could find O’Heir volunteering at animal shelters and organizations to help those in need, something she continues to do today.
After graduating from high school, O’Heir continued her education at the Evangelical School of Nursing in Oak Lawn, Illinois. O’Heir knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nurse and has never once strayed from that path.
“Taking care of people and animals is just a part of my nature.”
After years of hard work, she graduated with a Nursing degree in 1987 and began her career as an RN.
“My first nursing job was at Christ Hospital, in Oak Lawn IL where I began working in the neuro-trauma unit.”
A year after beginning her career as a nurse, O’Heir knew it was time to make the move from Illinois to Indiana. She bought her first house in Griffith and continued to work at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. After 5 years with the hospital, O’Heir began a new career path in the Home Health and Hospice Care field of nursing. This would become her life’s passion.
O’Heir spent 13 years with Providence Life Services where she developed both Home Health and Hospice programs for the company. In 2015 she was approached to lead the VNA of NWI.
“When the VNA first contacted me, I was excited about the opportunity to focus specifically on Hospice Care as well as to be able to work for an organization and community that supported a Hospice Center.”
As President and CEO of the VNA of Northwest Indiana, O’Heir’s responsibilities involve the day to day management of the hospice program, as well as the other nonprofit programs the VNA offers including Meals On Wheels, grief support for children and their families at the VNA Phoenix Center, Lifeline, and the Companion Homemaker program.
“I have had family members who have passed away with hospice support and others who were not supported by hospice, and the difference is night and day,” O’Heir explained. “I truly believe that everyone should have access to hospice care. As difficult as the situation is for the patient and family, to have that kind of support really makes all of the difference.”
“Before I joined the VNA, I didn’t truly realize the magnitude of how the community supports our programs,” O’Heir explained. “The VNA has been here for 47 years now and the community support is overwhelming. Even something as simple as walking in the Popcorn Festival Parade and hearing people yell, ‘We love the VNA!’ is an emotional experience. I thought it was just going to be walking in the parade, but it turned into this affirmation of everything we do here.”
When O’Heir isn’t helping ease families and their loved ones in a difficult situation, she can be found spending time with her family: her husband of four years, Craig, her children, and her four-legged friends.
O’Heir also volunteers for the nonprofit organization, Remote Area Medical, whose volunteer doctors and nurses travel to places where patients have been left behind and provide free healthcare to anyone in need.
“Anyone can go,” O’Heir explained. “They set up camp and serve thousands of people in a weekend. They haven’t done it in Indiana yet, so I’ve gone to Tennessee a few times to provide some of those services there. I would love to see this program brought to the people of NWI.”
For the past several years Ann has also volunteered for Lakeshore PAWS, continuing her mission of helping anyone, and anything, in need. She’s a dog lover and loves the dog-friendly community she has found in Valparaiso.
“I love Lakeshore PAWS and everything they do,” O’Heir said. “Jeanne Sommers, who is with Century 21 Alliance and also runs the Lakeshore PAWS organization, will not only help you find a home, she will help you find a best friend! I love being able to help these animals find their forever home.”