Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • July 5, 2020
By Mark Loehrke, Times Correspondent
Like many in the profession, Debra VanWoerden grew up in a family of nurses.
And though neither her mother nor aunt necessarily encouraged her to follow them into the field, her early fascination with medical research and patient care propelled her into a diverse and gratifying nursing career at Methodist Hospitals that is approaching three decades.
She currently manages the staff of an orthopedic medical-surgical unit, where she continues to find daily reminders of why she got into nursing.
“I am very passionate about giving the best patient care to everyone who comes through these doors,” says VanWoerden, who was selected as a top nurse in the Region in peer review. “From the time I was a staff nurse, my manager would give me the difficult patients because she knew I would take care of them and make their hospital experience better. I try to live by our Methodist mission statement to provide quality care to all patients in need.”
VanWoerden is especially gratified that her dedication to patient care sets an example for her colleagues, whether she’s running to a bed alarm or just sitting with a patient who needs some reassuring. This leadership has resulted in a nursing unit that has been among the top performers for patient satisfaction at Methodist’s Southlake campus and an honor for her personally as one of two Co-Leaders of the Year at the hospital in 2019.
“Deb truly cares for her staff and her patients, and, in turn, her staff and the physicians highly regard and respect her,” says Dawn Magiera, an executive assistant at Methodist who worked with VanWoerden for five years. “She has often been seen coming in early in the morning to visit with her midnight shift and rounding on her patients, then leaving late to make sure she sees everyone again. She truly models the statement ‘every patient, every day.’”
“One of my biggest joys is making rounds every day and hearing patients tell me how wonderful my staff is — it just makes me feel so grateful,” VanWoerden said. “I know I have the best nurses, and I’m so proud when other people see it for themselves.”
VanWoerden’s pride in her staff, her hospital and the nursing profession in general has only increased in the coronavirus pandemic, with everyone pulling together and stepping up to confront new challenges and extraordinary circumstances without losing sight of the most important aspect of the crisis — the health and well-being of the patients in their care.
“This pandemic has only served to remind me that nursing is a strong profession and nothing will knock us down,” she says. “We have pulled together as a team, and I am so proud to be associated with this organization and its phenomenal leadership through this crisis.”
As she continues to focus on developments with the virus while maintaining the day-to-day leadership of her staff, VanWoerden, a certified medical-surgical registered nurse, is working toward finishing her master’s degree by the end of this year, with plans to further her career in nursing leadership or perhaps get into teaching at the university level. Regardless of which step she takes next, however, her love of nursing and her lifelong dedication to patient care will continue to guide her going forward.
“Nursing can be a very hard job with a lot of aspects to deal with, but it is worth every minute, every hour, every week and every year that I have put into it,” she says fondly. “There is simply not another career I would ever choose.”