Ever since Debbie Ouellette, nurse coordinator in Robert T. Stone, MD, Respiratory Center, was a little girl, she liked to dance. She planned to be a ballet dancer, but by the time she reached high school, her aspirations changed. Instead, Debbie earned a nursing degree in college, but continued dancing for fun and fitness. In fact, she and her then 9-year-old daughter took tap dancing together, something that Debbie continued for 12 years, even participating in recitals with the young dancers. She wasn’t bothered that she didn’t fit the norm. This out-of-the-box thinking served Debbie well as a research nurse involved in cystic fibrosis clinical trials at Akron Children’s Rebecca D. Considine Research Institute.
When she retires on Dec. 21 after 40 years at Children’s, Debbie plans to stay in Bath, Ohio, enjoying her free time and getting her house ready to sell. Next summer, she and her husband will move to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she plans to take Zumba classes, golf, go boating and enjoy the sunshine.
What brought you to Children’s?
After earning a nursing degree from Ball State University in Indiana, I worked at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, in the pediatric emergency room. I dated a man from Akron, who I eventually married, and decided to return home to Ohio. I applied for a job at Children’s, and worked temporary nursing jobs until Barb Patterson, emergency department nursing supervisor, hired me to work in the ED.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I started in the ED, working there for 4 years. Next, I was hired by Dr. Carl Krill Jr., former division chair of the hematology/oncology clinic, to be an outpatient nurse clinician. I worked in hematology/oncology for 6 years before Betsy Bryson, pediatric nurse practitioner in pulmonary medicine, told me about an asthma teaching nurse position, a job I held for 10 years. After that, I worked in the continuity clinic, developmental pediatrics (Locust Pediatrics Care Group) and the central research department as a research nurse. I like pulmonary medicine, so when Betsy told me about a research nurse coordinator opening in the Lewis H. Walker, MD, Cystic Fibrosis Center, I applied. I’ve been there 15 years.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I like coordinating multiple research cystic fibrosis projects and knowing that these efforts help get new treatments and drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Children’s is part of the Cystic Fibrosis Therapeutics Development Network, which means we’re involved in cutting-edge clinical studies. In fact, 5 of those studies resulted in new FDA-approved medications, which make a difference in our patients’ lives.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
We’re more business oriented, but I still see the personal touch Children’s is known for. We’ve never forgotten our mission to serve the community’s children and families. On a lighter note, you don’t see the same nurse’s dress code of wearing white uniforms and nursing caps today!
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Working with so many dedicated people who give their all to improve the lives of the children we care for. For instance, I worked in 2 summer camps, one while in hematology/oncology and the other for asthma patients. These camps took place over the weekend. For the 17 years I was involved, many Children’s employees dedicated their time. I even recruited my husband each year to get involved!
What’s your most memorable moment at Akron Children’s?
I received a press release about a new drug the FDA recently approved, which would correct a basic genetic defect that affected one of our cystic fibrosis patients. When I told the girl’s parents, they were so happy. Both of them broke into tears and hugged me! It was a beautiful thing.
With so many little children here, did someone especially touch your heart?
I have many fond memories of the children I cared for in hematology/oncology. Being part of their journeys and struggles was so rewarding.
What do you look forward to the most in retirement?
Spending time with my husband, walking my dogs on the beach and visiting my daughter and son-in law in Boston.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Volunteer for hospital-sponsored events so you get to know other Children’s employees. It will help you feel connected to our patients and the community.
What’s the last book your read?
“Lilac Girls: A Novel” by Martha Hall Kelly
What’s the last movie you saw?
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”