The statement, “Believe in the power of nursing,” is displayed throughout Deb Hansen’s office at Providence Alaska Medical Center. That belief has taken her from a young woman who didn’t think she wanted to be a nurse to a nursing executive at Alaska’s largest hospital.
A knack for the sciences and a desire to attend college led her to Duke University in North Carolina where she earned a nursing degree in 1978. When she graduated, she thought to herself, “Okay, I have to be a nurse now.” It wasn’t until six months after graduating from college that she was convinced that nursing was her true calling.
Deb is no stranger to travel. As a child and teen, she moved seven times between kindergarten and her senior year of high school. She married a military dentist and lived in Europe, Texas and Washington State before moving to Alaska.
The couple came to Alaska in 1987 to visit friends, and her husband was presented with the opportunity to become a partner in an Anchorage dental clinic. They moved to Alaska in August 1988 for a new adventure with their children, who at the time were 5 and 3 years of age.
Fifteen years after earning her bachelor’s degree, Deb started considering a master’s degree in nursing. Her friend, Julie McNulty, who’s currently the director of the Center for Clinical Excellence at the Alaska Native Medical Center, did a lot of research on UAA’s Master of Science in Nursing program and encouraged Deb to go through the program with her. Deb earned her master’s degree with a focus on hospital administration in December 2001.
Deb worked full time while taking her nursing classes in the evenings. “The School of Nursing made it work for those of us who had jobs and other commitments,” she said.
She explained that all of the research she did for her master’s thesis was applicable to her career. “My master’s education gave me the skills that I didn’t have before,” she said. “It took my basic knowledge of nursing and expanded that to give me more insight.”
Deb values the connections she made with fellow classmates in the program and stays in contact with several of those colleagues today. “UAA allows opportunities for people with the same interests to sit down and have discussions that are so important to lifelong learning,” she said. “The University demonstrates to the community that higher education is important and it brings a depth of knowledge to Alaska that wouldn’t otherwise be here.”
As Chief Nurse Executive for Providence Alaska Medical Center, Deb is responsible for the overall nursing care provided at the hospital. She directly supervises 10 people, but is responsible for about 900 nurses at Providence. “There are a lot of people to help support me in this role,” she said. She describes her job as removing barriers and giving people the tools to provide excellent patient care. She wants the nurses at PAMC to recognize they have the authority and accountability to determine how to deliver nursing care and to ensure the nursing care they provide is based in evidence.
Prior to accepting the Chief Nurse Executive position, Deb served as Providence’s Director of Performance Improvement. Before she transitioned to Providence, Deb was the Director of Maternal Child Health at the Alaska Native Medical Center.
Deb’s daughter graduated from UAA with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2008 and her son is currently enrolled in courses at UAA.