Debbie Riley RN, MSN
Director Patient Care Services
Originally from Indianapolis and currently serving her community in Rensselaer, Indiana, Debbie graduated from St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in 1980. She earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Saint Joseph’s College in 1990, then garnered her master’s degree in nursing as well as a certification in informatics from IUPUI in 2009.
WHY DID YOU BECOME A NURSE?
As a child, I loved to dress up as a nurse and wanted to be one. I’m not sure what influenced my yearning since no one in my family was in the medical profession. During my high school years, I considered becoming an RN yet had some doubts. My junior year, during a fall church retreat in Kentucky, a fellow student had a severe accident and was transported to Indianapolis for surgery. I was asked by one of our counselors to ride with him and provide comfort, and I agreed to go. It was fascinating watching the medical team care for him in the emergency room and while visiting him after his surgery. That’s when I decided this was the profession for me.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO ATTEND ST. ELIZABETH SCHOOL OF NURSING?
During the spring of my senior year of high school, my parents and I had a conversation with my aunt about St. Elizabeth. Although my plan was to attend Ball State University, she had learned it was a great program which provided students experience inside the hospital. When my parents and I visited the campus, we were impressed with the way individual learning styles fit into the curriculum. That summer, I applied and was accepted into the program.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY FROM NURSING SCHOOL?
Relationships. Relationships with teachers, administration, our house mother (something not seen today), and other students. Someone was always there to offer support to another during difficult times. Instructors were approachable and willing to help. Study groups in our dorm made a big difference. We had collective strengths and weaknesses, so we worked together to support one another.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEW NURSES?
Develop relationships with other nurses. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Never stop learning, and stay current and aware of best practices. There are many opportunities in nursing. Gain experience in hospitals and discover what you are passionate about while being open to new opportunities. Don’t get discouraged in these changing times. Instead, accept the challenges and know that you’ll become an even better nurse.
HOW DID ST. ELIZABETH SCHOOL OF NURSING PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR CAREER?
St. Elizabeth teaches the fundamental values of nursing: compassionate care, joyful service, and respect for life. Our training recognized the whole person as we learned to care for the physical, spiritual, and psychosocial needs of patients. Hands-on experience gave us an advantage over other nursing institutions. We put what we learned in the classroom immediately into practice.
IF YOU WEREN'T A NURSE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
I considered being a missionary overseas, but never seriously as a career. I believe that I serve as a missionary by being an example of Christ’s ministry as a nurse.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE FIELD AFTER YOU COMPLETED YOUR DEGREE?
My first nursing job was as an RN staff nurse on a surgical floor in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was the charge nurse and the only RN on a floor with approximately 30 patients. My team consisted of a very seasoned LPN and aide, thank goodness! I provided care for post-op patients. While they recovered, we made sure they were up early after surgery and ambulating well. It was an excellent job with a great team who helped me figure out my role as a new nurse.
WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
As Director of Patient Care Services, I oversee clinical services within the hospitals I serve. I am responsible for supervising nursing directors and the nursing staff as a whole, upholding the vision and goals for nursing staff, establishing quality standards, mentoring future leaders, and supporting providers. I work in tandem with all hospital departments developing teams that work together, providing high-quality care.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR CURRENT JOB?
I enjoy the interactions and experiences I have with others daily. I work alongside other community leaders promoting health and safety as well as growth initiatives in our area. I enjoy working with other area advocates who put our Franciscan Health values into action. Yet when it comes down to it, the best days at work are when I hear stories from patients that care received exceeded their expectations.
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART ABOUT BEING A NURSE?
I have high expectations for myself. When I fail to meet the needs of my patients or staff, I feel like I have fallen short as a nurse. I yearn to provide an environment where people can thrive and be their best. I set the same expectations for my staff and try to set an example of how to find passion and joy while serving others.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AND YOUR NURSING PRACTICE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE SCHOOL'S MISSION OF PREPARING NURSES TO CONTINUE IN CHRIST'S HEALING MINISTRY?
Christ is our example of how to live and St. Francis dedicated himself to caring for others. That message is carried throughout the school’s purpose and is not just a sign on the wall. It’s the culture student nurses experience that accompanies graduates into the world of nursing. Nurses tend to put others first, forgetting about our own needs. Many have struggled during the COVID pandemic because they are unable to immediately respond to patients’ needs. It’s critical to take the time to gown, glove, put on eye shields, and mask up before entering each room; necessary steps to protect ourselves, each patient, and their respective families. How care is provided will always evolve, but the passion for continuing Christ’s healing ministry stays with us forever.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT AT WORK?
My husband and I have three children: two daughters and one son, plus two sons-in-law and five grandchildren. We love visiting with them and doing activities together, such as camping and snow skiing. My husband and I enjoy traveling to the mountains and hiking or heading to the ocean. We love nature, being together, and exploring all of God’s creation. I also enjoy reading, and when I can, just pausing to sit. I have been very blessed.