From the Fall 2017 magazine. See more at http://nursing.byu.edu/Content/development/fall2017-online.pdf
Humbly Serving in the Background
There, in the background, a persistent woman keeps the college running. Associate teaching professor Debra Ann “Debbie” Mills (BS ’82, MS ’89), RN, MS, CNE, is the faculty member who helps make a nursing student’s life run smoothly. She organizes each semester’s class schedule, supervises the standardized testing, arranges a calendar for the ATI Nursing Education Program, and orders supplies. She trains faculty members to understand test results, works with the clinical agencies, and ensures that students pick up their books—all to help students fulfill their potential in learning the Healer’s art.
While on campus, Mills is the undergraduate program coordinator and a facilitator for her colleagues.
However, as soon as she leaves, she is an avid exerciser.
She regularly completes P90X, R.I.P.P.E.D., kickboxing, weightlifting, U-JAM Fitness, water aerobics, and TRX Endurance routines. She tries to be physically active for two hours a day and considers exercising her second job.
If you have met Mills, you will know she is a petite, gentle lady and does not seem to fit the mold of an aggressive gym rat. However, rumor has it that one day she got so caught up in her hard-hitting sets and reps that she broke the nose of her sparring partner.
Mills decided to become a nurse during her senior year of high school after having an opportunity to talk with a neighbor who served as a naval nurse.
After graduation she attended Ricks College to pursue a nursing degree. There she had the opportunity to learn in a classroom and a hospital. At that time there was no lab, so the nurses learned by watching filmstrips and practicing on each other.
The start to her nursing education had a few bumps. From not being able to find a pulse to being told to go home, Mills faced many discouraging challenges. However, she overcame them in a defining moment that concreted her desire to become a nurse.
The day after being told that she was not smart enough to be a nurse, Mills returned to the same hospital but under the direction of a different supervisor. This manager assigned her to care for a small senior woman who soiled herself daily. Mills’s first thought was, “You must be miserable—let me get you cleaned up.” So she did. She took care of this patient, cleaning her up and trying to make her as comfortable as possible.
However, giving such quality care made Mills late in giving some medication. She was certain the nurses would be upset. However, as she was leaving the floor that day, the unit manager stopped and said, “Thank you for taking care of one of God’s children.” At this point Mills knew she was going to be a nurse. It would be hard, but it would be worth it.
Mills worked in different places— Primary Children’s Hospital and Salt Lake Community College, to name a few—before finding a home at the Y in 1982. After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the BYU College of Nursing, she accepted an offer to teach there and has been helping students and faculty ever since.
Mills’s list of accomplishments is extensive: a decade as baccalaureate studies coordinator, five years as a MORE evaluator to review evidenced-based nursing articles with a pediatric education focus, and 21 years as a college representative for the Primary Children’s Hospital Consortium.
She is a Utah State Board of Nursing committee member, was nominated for a 2005 Excellence in Pediatric Nursing Education Award from the Society of Pediatric Nurses, and was a 2002 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Utah Nurses Association.
Mills is a great example of persistence, diligence, and hope.
Her experiences as a student help her to advise and encourage those students who are struggling as well as those who are exceeding expectations. From U-JAM to helping a student in a jam, Mills does it all so that people, including herself, find success