Deborah Deal told her family when was 6 years old that she'd be a nurse one day.
"I have always wanted to be a nurse," Deal says. "I have never wavered from that."
Now, 34 years into the career she always wanted, Deal is the chief nursing executive for the five-campus Parkridge Health System. While she hasn't worked in direct patient care in years, the best part of the job is still being close to those one-on-one interactions that make up the foundation of a career in nursing, Deal says.
"My favorite piece is still being able to walk down the halls and see patients," she says. "I love to see the staff members taking care of patients."
Deal also stands out in her commitment to helping other nurses develop their careers, writes colleague Michael Ferguson in his nomination of Deal for Champions of Health Care recognition.
"Across Parkridge, one can see nursing leadership positions filled by those who have flourished under Deal's leadership," he writes. "Every year, HCA Healthcare's leadership development class is populated with Parkridge nurses whom Deal has encouraged to realize their fullest potential."
Her own childhood experience watching and learning from a compassionate caregiver inspired her to become a nurse, Deal explains.
"My grandmother was a nursing assistant at a nursing home, and I would go with her and I watched her and I saw how she took care of people," Deal says. "She always said, 'These are not patients; these are my family.'"
The coronavirus pandemic has created multiple levels of challenge in patient care, including the need for nurses to act as surrogate families for patients who are isolated during a harrowing illness, Deal says.
"Because patients were not allowed visitors, the nurses also have to stand in for being that comfort and compassion, taking that place of the family," she says.
As the pandemic has persisted, one of the strongest tools she has is collaboration with other nursing professionals across the community, she says.
"The chief nursing officers, we work well together," she says. "We regularly communicate with each other."
* Role: Chief nursing executive for Parkridge Health System
* Career: Deal spent more than 18 years at Erlanger in multiple roles, including program administrator for medical and surgical services before joining Parkridge in 2006. Deal has bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in health care administration, and she is pursuing her doctorate of nursing practice at UTC.
* Personal: Deal and her husband have 23-year-old twin sons.
Her strong professional networks are helped by the fact that she has spent 34 years working in just two places, Deal says.
In fact, she has only worked in three places in her life — at Eckerd's as a pharmacy technician in high school and college, then at Erlanger and now at Parkridge.
"I am through-and-through a Chattanooga girl," Deal says. "I love Chattanooga. I did not want to move."
CHAMPIONS OF HEALTH CARE 2021