Klamath Falls Grad Completes Degree After 14 Years

06/03/03    KLAMATH FALLS,  Ore.

Fourteen years ago, Deborah James was accepted into nursing school in Florida. On Saturday, June 14, she will graduate from the OHSU School of Nursing, Klamath Falls Campus. Commencement will be at the John F. Moehl Stadium on the Oregon Institute of Technology campus.

"I¹ve been a vagabond," she said. "It¹s been quite a journey to finish this."

The journey started 20 years ago, when she graduated from high school in Kentucky and enlisted in the army, becoming a medical lab technologist based in Lawton, Okla.

"I was exposed to a lot of interesting things in the military," she said. "We set up at maneuvers and our company worked in Mexico during an earthquake."

After the army she found various jobs in hospitals and medical offices around the country. The defining experience was the opportunity to work in intensive care in Grand Junction, Colo.

"I fell in love with it," she said. "I loved the environment and I loved responding to traumas."

Eventually she went to work at Ashland Community Hospital in Ashland, Ore., where she met her husband, Bob James, a radiology technician. They have six children aged 8 to 23.

After staying home with her children for a few years, James talked with a nurse practitioner who said, "You¹re smart. You should finish school," James¹ husband agreed, so she enrolled at the OHSU School of Nursing Klamath Falls Campus.

James threw herself into her nursing education, becoming president of the Klamath Falls Campus Student Nurses Association and exploring a variety of clinical experiences, including the Klamath Falls Jail and a drug treatment center. Currently she is spending three months at Merle West Hospital in Klamath Falls, where her husband is now a supervisor in radiology technology.

"We get to have lunch together!" she said. After school she hopes to find employment in Merle West¹s critical care unit.

James will be two weeks shy of her 38th birthday when she receives her bachelor of science degree in nursing. She¹ll miss her 20-year high school reunion, which is the same week as the OHSU commencement ceremony. "I figured this is more important," she said. "I¹m the first one in my family to graduate from college, and the whole family is coming here to be with me."

She is grateful for her supportive husband and children. "Some days it has been difficult," she said. "But [the kids have] learned so much. It¹s one thing to tell your kids education is important and encourage them, but it¹s different when they see Mom staying up until 2 a.m. studying. They don¹t whine to me that they can¹t finish their homework."

She has learned a lot about herself, too. "I¹m somebody who likes to take care of people," she said, "and there are a lot of us out there."

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