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Modeling a healthy life

May 7, 2012


Debra Eardley.

Photo by Patrick O'Leary.

U nursing student has developed an adult obesity management toolkit

By Bill Magdalene

Debra Eardley's dream is to teach people how to take good care of their health—body, mind, and soul. She completed her master's degree in nursing in August 2011 and immediately began work toward her doctorate in public health nursing. She'll complete it this fall.

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Q&A with Debra Eardley

How did you discover your nursing career path?
Years ago when I became a new mom, I was sick and not feeling well. A public health nurse came to my house often to help me take care of my baby until I felt better. She was very kind, patient, and a stellar role model for me as a young new parent. It was because of her expertise, in particular her teaching skills, which left a lasting impression on me. After that experience, I knew that one day I would become a public health nurse and help people to take good care of themselves and their families.

What is public health nursing?
My work involves developing the interventions practitioners need to help people know exactly what will make them healthy and prevent disease or injury. I teach people how to eat right and how much exercise they need in a day. I also teach people that adequate sleep and having fun once in a while contributes to being healthy. Being connected to a community through a favorite hobby, sport, walking club, church choir, or volunteer group—believe it or not—helps to make us healthy.

What's your dream career?
I have two. The first is to teach nursing in a baccalaureate or doctoral university full-time. The second dream is to help people live healthy lifestyles that include healthy eating habits and routine physical activity. To that end, I would work as an advocate for health and a health consultant.

Have you found new approaches to health?
I have developed technology-enabled interventions to effectively address the US adult obesity epidemic at the individual, community, and system levels. My doctorate project involves the development of an adult obesity management toolkit (pdf) that contains one-click access to evidence-based standardized care plans that can be used in a variety of care settings, as well as in nursing schools.

What's the biggest challenge in your work?
Balancing my academic work with my day job/professional work and personal life. I need to practice what I teach. Finding time to cycle, ski, and eat healthy can become difficult with a busy schedule.

What do you love to do outside of work and study?
I have a busy family life, with three grown children and four grandchildren whom I see regularly. In addition, I am gifted with wonderful friends who I enjoy spending time with, whether it's long distance cycling, walking or skiing, or just chatting about life. Volunteering for the underprivileged is a priority for me as well. Prior to attending the University of Minnesota, I was actively involved in a social justice committee. Much of our work was to provide disadvantaged children with basics such as clothing and school supplies.

What inspires you in a teacher?
When he or she is engaged and passionate about what they are teaching. An effective teacher is a role model of excellence in nursing. This is evidenced by how they balance work with their personal life.

What's been key to your U of M student experience?
Distance learning makes my being able attend higher education possible. The online format is superb and user friendly.

Advice for others seeking their career path?
Follow your dream … find a mentor … and forge ahead!

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Public health nursing