“You have to have a genuine love for others and helping others.”
Deborah’s commitment to caring for other people began before she was a nurse.
Working in the kitchen of a long-term care home, she tried to feed and care for patients before being told she wasn’t allowed to. That led to her becoming a nurse’s aide and eventually a professional nurse.
“I love nursing because you meet people and what you do for them is so important,” Debbie says. “You impact their lives.”
Over the years, Debbie has worked in many different roles. She’s spent time as a labor and delivery nurse, as a public health professional and administrator with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as a college professor, and even as a school nurse. She now works in nursing administration at UPMC in North Central Pa.
“You never know where your journey's going to take you,” she says. “Mine took me all over, and so I just tell people that you never know where life's going to take you, embrace all opportunities.”
Wherever she worked and whoever she worked for, Debbie had a passion for the work. She loves teaching people and helping them grow professionally. When she worked for the state, she learned about public health and helped write the public school health manuals that are used today.
Now back at UPMC – where she previously worked in labor and delivery – she holds many different responsibilities. Her roles include director of nursing for the medical group and supervision of quality and safety and the nurse navigation and triage teams. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she stepped in to help provide care in the ICU and COVID-19 vaccine clinics.
“Every day I have a plan,” she says. “But I don't even know why after 13 years I plan because it's never the same. It varies. It's exciting. It’s just a really exciting job.”
Debbie believes one of the most important qualities for a nurse is empathy.
That quality has guided her nursing practice over the years. She keeps a “warm and fuzzy” box at home with thank-you letters she’s received from patients over the years. And she’s also the godparent to several people whom she cared for as a labor and delivery nurse.
“You have to have a genuine love for others and helping others,” she says. “And you have to have empathy and being able to listen and truly care about somebody in the moment more than yourself.”
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