Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
Former Army and VA Nurse Educator Retires
Debbie Duncan is retiring... for the second time. After a successful 20 year career as an Army trauma and critical care nurse, she topped that by serving Veterans, staff, and the Spokane community during her 20+ year career at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center as a Clinical Educator. Now, “Deb” is looking forward to spending time with family and suggests she may even volunteer at a nearby CBOC after retiring from and moving back east to be closer to family and grandchildren. She says she may even make time to mentor vulnerable, at risk children.
Raised on a wheat and hog farm in Colfax, WA, nursing took hold as a student at Whitworth College before enlisted into the Army and later earning her commission while serving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Her career also took her to the Army’s Burn Unit in San Antonio, where she conducted breakthrough research on skin grafts. Her military career saw this former Lt. Colonel retire as the Director of the Army’s Practical Nurse course at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina in 1993. “I never thought I would stay in the Army as a career, however I just kept accepting ‘one more assignment’.
Duncan claims some of her favorite memories during her tenure with the VA include teaching at Spokane Community College and Washington State University where she was an instructor for med-surge clinicals, even teaching several current and former VA nurses. “I think as an educator, seeing your students graduate and move onto excel in their careers is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching.”
She’s made many friends along the way, especially since arriving at MGVAMC in 1994. She has advice for everyone serving in VA, “Always keep the mission of VA foremost in your mind—every day when you come to work. Also, don’t forget that you too were once a student.”
Among the adoring comments some of her co-workers at Spokane’s VA wanted Deb to know, include “It has truly been an honor to be able to work together. Your positive attitude and amazing work ethic will be missed. Best to you in your retirement,” writes Dr. Kimberly Morris. “OMG Deb! I can’t believe you’re leaving! Your warm personality and great sense of humor has enlightened staff and patients for years. I will miss you,” Joe Pallaria. “Good luck Deb! It has been a pleasure working with you over the years. Congratulations and enjoy your retirement,” said Bennett “Tray” Traylor.
After more than 40 years of service to the military and the VA, Duncan is retiring with nothing but good hopes for VA’s continued cultural transformation and in Spokane, new growth with the onset of the new WSU Medical School. “Working with students, interns, externs and residents has been one of the most time consuming, but rewarding parts of my job. Most people have no idea how many trainees are walking our hallways at any given time. The numbers have more than quadrupled over the past 10-15 years. They will only increase, especially with the growth of the medical residency programs in our area. Many trainees request specifically to come to the VA, as we have great preceptors, unique programs, and we generally treat our trainees with respect.”
Dr. Sharon Bradley, Chief of Education at MGVAMC says, “I’m going to miss everything about her. From her humor; to her ability to relate to people while she’s teaching; and, she has so much experience and historical reference with the VA and Spokane’s health care institutions-where she created such wonderful working relationships with everyone. We can’t say enough positive things about Deb. We’re all just going to miss her so much!”
Another co-worker, Karen Saucier-Renner worked with Debbie on a daily basis. “Deb is just one of those people that come along once in a lifetime. She’s just so wonderful to work with. We’re going to miss her smiling face, her humor, her grandma stories… everything about her, especially her easy-going personality. When I made the transition from Primary Care to Education, it was her knowledge of the VA and the facility that helped me be successful in my move and in my career. There’s just such a void knowing she’s leaving. It really does bring tears to my eyes. You couldn’t ask for a better co-worker, mentor, and very dear friend,” said Saucier-Renner, a nurse at MGVAMC.