“My Olivet experience changed the trajectory of my life in many ways,” says Debbie Drake ‘76.
That is a huge endorsement from someone who had never visited campus and didn’t know a single person at the University before she moved in for the start of her freshman school year.
Debbie graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a bachelor of science degree in nursing. At the time, she was confident she wanted a nursing job in any area except obstetrics (OB). However, a networking connection with fellow Olivet nursing alumna, Sylvia Heinze, presented her with a new opportunity to consider.
“God, in His infinite wisdom, had other plans for me,” Debbie reflects. “My first job offer was in OB, and I learned to love it! In fact, 47 years later, it is still my favorite nursing care to provide.”
That alumni connection also paved the way for Debbie to give back to the field of nursing. She has worked in some level of nursing education for many years, including L.P.N., A.S.N., Diploma, B.S., M.S.N., and D.N.P. Debbie spent the past 25 years teaching in the Graduate Nursing program at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU). She now is an adjunct faculty member both at IWU and Olivet.
“I love nursing students and frequently learn from them, as well as to facilitate learning for them,” she says.
In addition to a very purposeful career as an educator and practitioner, Debbie also owned and operated a business that contracted out OB educational classes (Lamaze, sibling, breastfeeding, etc.) to hospitals that did not offer those services. A life-long learner, she also earned a master’s degree in Nursing Administration from Bradley University and a Ph.D. in Health Care Administration from Walden University. She also led a large parish nurse program and served on the executive board for Indiana Center for Nursing.
“This wonderful career—including practice, academia, and scholarship—was possible because of the preparation I received at Olivet.”
Her influential preparation was likely bolstered by the fact that Olivet is where she met some of the most important people in her life, including her college sweetheart, Tom Drake. Unfortunately after 38 beautiful years of marriage, Tom lost a brief, but intense battle with metastatic renal cancer in 2013.
“It was the hardest thing I have had to endure,” Debbie says, “but God has been so faithful to me and He provides for my every need. Again, I credit Olivet for much of my spiritual formation which gave me a solid foundation and the faith to endure life’s challenges.
“One other area of life that has been greatly influenced by my years at ONU are friendships. Every five years I go on a trip with about 15 girlfriends from Olivet—many of them nursing classmates. I cannot begin to express the love and support from our Olivet friends during Tom’s illness and death, and their continued support for me. It truly is a rare gift!”
Over the years, Debbie balanced going to graduate school, raising children, and actively participating in church. At times, she recognizes, the schedule was chaotic, but the reward was great.
“Becoming a full-time professor and continuing to be influential in the careers of nurse leaders was absolutely worth it! Olivet prepared me well for a successful career in nursing and for life!”
Since transitioning from full-time teaching to adjunct work, Debbie had time to co-author a book, Biblical Insights for Nursing Education and Practice, with coworkers from IWU. Perhaps uncoincidentally, four of the six authors are ONU alumni and five of the six have been faculty for Olivet’s School of Nursing in some capacity over the years.
“My advice to any adult learner who is considering going back to school is to not be fearful of the demands and schedule. Take a deep breath and enjoy the journey. Although it is overwhelming at times, the opportunities one has while in a graduate program are once in a lifetime—the ability to network with preceptors and academic scholars is amazing!”
To explore more about Olivet’s nursing programs and Graduate and Continuing Studies programs, visit Olivet.edu/nursing.