From the time she was a young girl, Deborah “Debby” Hahn always knew she wanted to be a nurse. After earning her nursing degree from the Hawkeye Institute in Waterloo, Iowa, Debby joined the ranks of America’s nurses in a time when women were fighting for equal rights, antiwar sentiments were high, and the Beatles were no more.
Skip ahead half a century and you find someone whose dedication to the tenets of nursing – compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every patient – left a lasting mark on scores of patients, and our own island. The Boca Grande Health Clinic has been Debby’s home away from home for the last 35 years.
“Deb has been a constant lighthouse for the Clinic for over 35 years. A beacon of hope and compassion and a steady hand to help in healthcare worries,” said Mark Driscoll, Boca Grande Health Clinic CEO. “Deb will be sorely missed! In today’s world you rarely see someone working at one place for 35 years. All of us have been very fortunate.”
Debby joined the Clinic in 1989 and has served as Lead Nurse and Nursing Coordinator, responsible for ensuring the Clinic has the nurses staffed to meet patient needs and that Clinic physicians have what they require to provide exceptional care to their patients.
Debby worked with a number of doctors over the course of her 35 years, but she holds a special place in her heart for one specific island doctor – Hank Wright. “He was always the sweetest man to me.” In fact, it was Dr. Wright who brought Debby to the Clinic. She first met him while doing a private case and he was so impressed with her that he began a crusade to lure her to Boca Grande. At that time, Debby was working several jobs and thought she was too busy raising her children. As a single mother of three (including twins), though, Dr. Wright’s offer of free medical for the kids sealed the deal and Debby joined him as the island’s two primary caregivers.
Taking care of patients has been Debby’s favorite part of being a nurse. “I was trained at a time when patients were always right and by some amazing instructors of patient care,” she said. She applied that passion to everything she helped build at the Clinic and is proud to have been part of a team who “treated patients like family” and “went the extra mile.”
As she settles into retirement, it doesn’t sound like Debbie intends to slow down one bit. Spending more time with her six grandchildren, including home-schooling one of them, and doing some traveling, will keep her busy. Debby says she looks forward to getting some fishing in as well but could do without a repeat of the time she caught a 6-foot shark while out fishing with her sister 11 years ago. This time she’ll stick to grouper.
Retiring wasn’t an easy decision for someone who cares as much about people as Debby does. “I thank the island, the patients and the Clinic for allowing me to be their nurse all these years.” Debby hopes her patients will know that they were like her extended family.
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