How a circus performer became a nurse

Norton Children’s Hospital nurse previously toured the country as a circus performer with the Cincinnati Circus Company.

Hanging from a thin ribbon 30 feet in the air as thousands of people gaze at your every move is many people’s idea of a nightmare. But it was a dream come true for Lindsey Spendlove, R.N., a medical/surgical nurse at Norton Children’s Hospital who previously toured the country as a circus performer with the Cincinnati Circus Company.

“I fell in love with the dancing, the thrill, the danger — all of it,” Spendlove said. “That’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

When the time came for college, Spendlove chose to attend Northern Kentucky University near Cincinnati so she could be close to the circus.

“My parents wanted me to get a degree, and I wanted to perform,” she said. “By attending NKU, I could take classes but also work for a circus that’s well respected in the region.”

She started behind the scenes, but soon was performing on the flying trapeze. She became a trapeze coach and then an aerial performer, which involved hanging from ribbons high in the air at some of the largest arenas in the country.

Northern Kentucky University doesn’t offer a degree in circus performance, so Spendlove picked nursing when she needed to declare a major.

“My mom was a nurse, and I’m passionate about kids,” she said. “It seemed like a good fit.”

While the circus was a priority in Spendlove’s life, her passion for nursing started to grow.

“We spent weeks driving and performing around the country,” Spendlove said. “I used that time to study. The more I learned, the more I considered nursing a serious career choice.”

Years of performing twists and flips had taken a toll on Spendlove’s back. She awoke one morning in 2014 with extreme back pain. She spent months in rehabilitation to treat the injury, but it became clear her performing days were over.

That’s when nursing took center stage in her life. Spendlove graduated that year and has been working at Norton Children’s Hospital ever since.

Spendlove said she misses the circus, but loves her new career.

“Nursing and the circus actually have many similarities,” she said. “Both involve working with children, teamwork is vital and you’re constantly on your feet.”

Spendlove said her circus days prepared her for the road ahead.

“I learned many skills as a performer that have helped me become a confident nurse,” she said. “I’m so proud of my journey. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”


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