Debra Gurney Joins College of DuPage as New Director of Nursing
By Angela Mennecke
With extensive experience overseeing nursing programs in higher education, Debra Gurney is well-suited to serve as the new Director of Nursing in the Biology and Health Sciences Division at College of DuPage. Her wealth of experience will allow her to lead program approvals and accreditation processes, evaluate program goals and outcomes and oversee curriculum.
Prior to her appointment, Gurney served as executive director of nursing programs at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and the City Colleges of Chicago, where she oversaw the nursing admission process, curriculum planning and evaluation and assessment of student outcomes. Most recently, Gurney was Assistant Dean of the College of Health Sciences at Dominican.
Gurney began her nursing journey by taking prerequisites at a local community college. She credits her experience with the faculty and advisors into shaping her career path in nursing.
“I was a non-traditional student, married with a family, and neither of my parents had attended college. I had limited role models in the educational world,” Gurney said. “Without the faculty and the advising I had at the community college, I wouldn't have had the direction to follow a career path in nursing. My own experience is why COD is so special to me on a personal level. I want to ensure each nursing student is given the tools and resources they need to succeed.”
As she continues to meet with faculty to review the current curriculum, Gurney wants to focus her efforts on recruiting and retention, as well as individual student success.
“Nursing is one of the most difficult majors in any college or university setting,” she said. “It takes discipline and grit. We need to provide resources to help each student on their individual journey to becoming a nurse. A big focus this year will be building upon resources already in place. I also want to look at each student as well as how they work together as a collective group.”
Gurney is already impressed with the high-caliber of students. In 2017, the College’s Associate Nursing Degree students had higher national and state averages on the NCLEX-RN, the National Nursing Board Exam, with an 89 percent average score. The national average is 87 percent and the Illinois average is 86 percent.
“COD has a great reputation within the nursing education community,” she said. “Accomplishing a higher NCLEX pass rate than the national and state averages is exceptional and an accomplishment of which to be proud. This achievement is a testament to the hard work of the faculty and staff, as well as the nursing students."
Nursing alone is one of a number of growing fields with a projected job growth rate of more than 15 percent from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now more than ever is a great time to be a nurse, Gurney said.
“Nurses are expected to play an increasingly important role in health care delivery,” she said. “While a majority of nurses are still working at hospitals, changes to the health care system have resulted in people seeking care in their homes or at physical rehabilitation centers for conditions that were once treated only in a hospital. There are vast opportunities for nursing graduates to practice.”
With a profound knowledge of the inner workings of higher education, Gurney is also experienced in the clinical setting. She has held past positions as nursing director at Rush Oak Park Hospital and manager of maternal/child health development at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Ill. Gurney holds a doctorate in education and a master of science degree with a concentration in clinical specialist medical-surgical nursing, both from Northern Illinois University and a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Rockford College.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 26,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.
Photo Caption: Debra Gurney (right) working with Certified Nursing Assistant student Saja Yousif in one of COD’s state-of-the-art health care simulation labs. The Nursing program at COD has two simulation environments and four labs in which to educate students. Both the Simulation Center and Hospital Simulation Lab mirror clinical settings, so students are better prepared when they reach the clinical portion of their education.
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