24-year Nanticoke nurse deals with virus challenges

Debbie Lane is a registered nurse who works in the Intensive Care Unit at Nanticoke Memorial Hopsital in Seaford. Submitted photos

SEAFORD — Fresh out of high school as a 1990 Lake Forest graduate, Debbie Lane wanted to pursue a career that would impact the lives of children.

Her planned career path was social work. It didn’t pan out.

“I wanted to be a social worker and work with children,” said Ms. Lane. “I was in the beginning classes, and they made you go around the room, and they wanted to know why you wanted to be a social worker. And I said, ‘Because I want to change the system because it’s broken.’ And the instructor looked at me and said, ‘You need to find a different job because you’re not going to fix the system.’”

Debbie Lane

Her interest turned to what has become a 24-year career in nursing that enables the Harrington resident to care for people of all ages, in all sorts of situations and scenarios. Even pandemics.

Days and nights are long, perhaps even more so during the coronavirus pandemic.

She describes the COVID-19 pandemic as “like nothing I would ever have imagined. It has been very intense. It’s mentally and physically demanding. It makes you appreciate the norm. And it’s scary.”

She admits there was initial fear back when the scope of the pandemic was coming into focus, and serious and life-threatening cases were rolling into hospital ICU’s.

“I have never been scared to go to work. But when it first started, I was scared to go to work,” said Ms. Lane. “The fear has gone. We have a lot of good processes in place. And Nanticoke has been very fortunate. We have all the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) we need. They have tried to make sure the employees are safe.

“So the fear has subsided,” Ms. Lane said. “We are just looking for the end in sight — and a little concerned about what they are calling the ‘second wave.’”

In Nanticoke’s ICU, she works on a rotating shift schedule, 12-hour days and nights.

“You get used to it. It’s better than it used to be,” said Ms. Lane. “We used to work a month of days, a month of nights. Now it’s not like that.”

After a challenging workday, she heads to her home in Harrington for refreshing decompression and homegrown therapy provided by her loving husband of 24 years, Joseph Lane.
“The first thing I do is, I come home, and I take a shower. You feel like you need to decontaminate yourself,” said Ms. Lane. “But
the biggest thing I do is I talk to my husband. He is usually willing to listen, and he understands how the circumstances have changed. He is a very supportive husband.”

Ms. Lane and her husband have two children: son Dylan, 20, who is set to graduate from Del Tech, and daughter Rebecca, 17, who is
getting ready to start college.

Debbie Lane, in the field of nursing for about 24 years, speaks with a colleague at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital where she works in the Intensive Care Unit.

She is the first nurse in her family. “I am the pioneer,” Ms. Lane said.

These days, around the perimeter of the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital campus are signs that proudly proclaim, “Heroes Work Here.”

“I don’t know if I’d consider myself a ‘hero.’ I consider myself to be valuable,” said Ms. Lane. “I consider myself and my co-workers to be willing to take the risks and do what is necessary for all the patients. But I don’t know if I’d consider us to be heroes.”

Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Delaware State University, Ms. Lane joined Nanticoke’s healthcare family after a brief six-week stint in a “standby” position at Beebe Medical Center.

“When I went to sign up for hours after orientation there weren’t any,” she said. “I interviewed at Nanticoke and … that has been pretty much it.”

She started at Nanticoke in the Progressive Care Unit, which “is like their cardiac stepdown unit for about two years. Then I went to ICU and I have been there ever since.”

Personal experience was her motivation in considering social work.

“We had a neighbor who had a foster child that I babysat, and I got very, very attached to. And the week the adoption was supposed to be final they gave her back to her abusive mother. I was like, ‘We need to fix this so this isn’t happening to these kids,’” said Ms. Lane, who ultimately shelved plans to pursue a career in social work shortly after arriving at DSU.

“I also found out at that point that pretty much a master’s degree is mandatory, and that meant six years of college. So somebody recommended nursing and it kind of stuck. I went to my advisor at that point and she was like, ‘Have you thought about nursing?’ I was like, ‘Not really. I got into the program. And I loved it. And it kind of stuck. It was within first week of college I changed career paths.”

In a profession that has pros and cons, Ms. Lane says most gratifying aspect of being a nurse is “taking care of the patients.”

“Every patient we have is somebody’s mother, father, brother, sister … and I have had family members end up in Intensive Care and when they are in there, you depend on the nursing staff. I wanted to be that person that those families could depend on,” said Ms. Lane. “The cons are, when you go to work you are gone for the day. So, you’re away from your family. It is stressful. But I think there is a lot of rewards in it, too.”

She has many memories throughout her career. One stands out.

“Probably the first patient I got attached to, I still get a Christmas card from his wife every year,” said Ms. Lane. “And that was around 24 years ago.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.