Deborah White has what it takes for a successful career in healthcare management: clinical expertise, administrative know-how, a compassion for patients—and one thing more. Three years ago when White was an OR nurse circulator at Albemarle Hospital, her supervisor observed a can-do attitude that set her apart.
“Deborah has inherent leadership skills
that I recognized immediately,” said Suzanne Stonikinis, director of surgical services for Albemarle Health. “She never sat down. Deborah was always the one to say, ‘Do you need any help?’ This is a person who has what it takes to be a leader, and I have not been disappointed one moment.”
As manager of surgical services for one of Northeastern North Carolina’s busiest hospitals, White’s low-key, professional demeanor sets the pace for the 96 staff members she oversees—and the patients
who receive their care.
“I’ve always loved nursing and helping people,” said White. “This job is a combination of both the administrative and clinical sides of healthcare.”
Located in Elizabeth City, N.C., Albemarle Hospital covers a seven-county area and offers state-of-the-art healthcare that you may not expect in comparable community hospitals, including brain surgery, vascular surgery, small incision surgery, cardiac care, and extensive diagnostic radiology services.
From the surgical services area on the second floor, White oversees six surgical units—from ambulatory care and endoscopy to the operating and recovery rooms. The surgical services staff handles 8,000 cases a year, and her job is to assure that they are well trained, maintain accepted standards of care and are frequently evaluated. She is also the person to whom both hospital employees and patients can turn to in times of need.
“People are people, and they have unique needs,” said Stonikinis. “Deborah can be a mother hen as well as a nurse.”
Making the grade
Born into a military family, White and her family moved frequently when she was growing up—South Carolina, Florida, Georgia. Her father’s family was from Elizabeth City originally, and that’s where they settled when she was a teenager, graduating from Northeastern High School in 1989.
After graduation, life took White back to South Carolina, but she returned to Elizabeth City five years later to be closer to her family.
“I thought I’d never come back home,” she laughed.
In the back of her mind, White had always thought about a medical career. Soon after her first son was born, she decided that nursing was the field for her.
“I’ve always gravitated to nursing, and I love helping people,” said White. “Now that I had someone else to be responsible for, it just seemed right.”
White entered the two-year nursing program at College of the Albemarle, where she immersed herself in anatomy, physiology and a host of science classes. Immediately after graduating with an associate’s degree in nursing in 2003 (she is a registered nurse), White was offered a job at Albemarle Hospital as an OR nurse circulator—a position that required she access the patient’s condition before, during and after the operation, providing total patient care.
Her first operation was a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, or gall bladder removal.
“It was an eye-opening experience—very intimidating with all the equipment,” said White. But I loved the adrenaline rush, and I’ve since seen doctor’s perform miracles.”
White dedicated herself to the job, and the leadership skills that Stonikinis witnessed, led to her promotion as the hospital’s manager of surgical services in 2007. Today, her days are divided between administrative duties, working with the staff and making patient rounds. Occasionally, she scrubs in to assist in the OR.
“It feels good to see patients and their families come into the hospital, then go home with a good outcome,” said White. “Nursing is a rewarding field to go into, and COA paved the road for my career path. The nursing instructors were wonderful and very supportive.”
The job outlook for nursing careers is excellent, according to the American Medical Association which reports that employment for registered nurses expected to grow much faster than average through 2016. Registered nurses, like White, are projected to create the second largest number of new jobs among all occupations.
In addition to a clinical proficiency, nurses must “inherently like people and have a high degree of personal accountability,” explained Stonikinis.
“If you don’t have the compassion or the drive, then you don’t give your patients the quality of care that they deserve,” said White. “Compassion, that’s the key.”