Dolores “Deo” Little, MN, RN started her career at Stanford University Hospital as a staff nurse, then head nurse and supervisor at Firland TB Sanitorium, and surgical supervisor at Harborview Medical Center where she expanded her role to become a part-time instructor at the University of Washington School of Nursing in 1951. In 1968, Deo became a professor in the Department of Community Health Care Systems, and the leadership class she taught to undergraduate students was a required course. A popular and dynamic teacher, Deo mentored hundreds of students over the course of her career.
She not only practiced quality nursing, but spoke poignantly on all facets of nursing. A sought-after spokesperson, promoting quality nursing practice throughout the U. S. and abroad, Deo presented over 300 papers, talks at conferences, workshops, symposia, conventions, international meetings, TV and radio shows, as well as newspaper interviews. Her unique ability to use humor in presenting critical concepts on nursing was always very popular.
Deo’s tireless commitment to defining and enhancing the role of nursing was reflected in her pioneering efforts to delineate the scope of practice for the clinical specialist, primary care nurse practitioner, nurse manager, leader and political activist. This was demonstrated through her research, publications, and innumerable presentations throughout the world.
Deo authored over 60 publications which include books, journal articles, films, audio and visual tapes, many of which focused on nursing practice, the nurse specialist, nursing care planning and nurse practitioner. She pioneered the “Primex” concept which eventually evolved into the role of the primary health care practitioner.
Always striving for more knowledge and information about the impact of nursing practice on health outcomes and patient satisfaction, Deo participated in over 20 research projects throughout her career.
Clearly, her studies, papers, and presentations on the nurse specialist, nurse practitioner and nursing process have and will continue to have a lasting legacy on the practice of nursing.
Deo served on the WSNA Board of Directors from 1959 — 1972 in numerous positions including: president, first vice-president, second vice-president and ANA/WSNA convention delegate.
During her tenure as WSNA president, Deo paved the way for recognition and acceptance of collective bargaining and the need for parity and strong protections for staff nurses. Although a controversial issue among nurse managers and academia, Deo was fearless in promoting collective bargaining in all settings. She led the way in defining nursing practice so that it could be understood and utilized in labor negotiations during the collective bargaining process, and inspired many nurses to speak up in their work situations and advocate for themselves.
During Deo’s presidency the Nurse Practice Act was expanded to incorporate language for the advanced practitioner level, even though the medical and hospital associations opposed it.
She co-chaired the first Joint WSNA/WSMA Doctor-Nurse Committee promoting communications and collaboration between the two professional organizations. With her leadership, the first Doctor-Nurse Conference was held in Seattle, jointly sponsored by WSNA and WSMA. Subsequently, a Joint Commission on Practice was established which facilitated communications and joint position papers on the scope of medicine and nursing practice.
Deo, a leader who is able to articulate the essence of nursing in a way that can be realized and understood by all nurses, no matter what or where they practice spearheaded the ANA credentialing program to recognize excellence in nursing practice. During the early development of the certification process, Deo was a strong proponent of challenging evaluative criteria which were not always popular. Only after several years of debate on the floor of the ANA House of Delegates, did the certification guidelines finally get adopted. Deo’s leadership and perseverance were significant factors contributing to the strong certification program we have today.
Her award-winning film, “Mrs. Reynolds Needs a Nurse” reflects Deo’s philosophy and beliefs about the important role of nursing as a patient advocate with clinical competencies in a complex health care delivery system. This film classic has been viewed worldwide by over two million health care providers in the US, Canada, the Philippines, Australia, Japan, England, and France. Deo was the principal author and played the role of the nursing supervisor in this film.
Her book, Nursing Care Planning, coauthored with Doris Carnevali, served as an invaluable and must-read publication, in popular demand by nurses and nursing students across the country.
Deo, a nurse ahead of her times, is a tireless, articulate, and passionate proponent of nursing. She is a nurse’s nurse and can relate to nurses on all levels using day-to-day experiences as living examples to reinforce the theoretical content of her presentations on nursing and health care.
As Honorary President of the Washington Coalition for Health Security, Deo provided leadership in promoting health care reform which would expand access to affordable, quality health care and allow for the choice of providers to include nurse practitioners.
She served on the Board of Directors of the Puget Sound Health Systems Agency and chaired the Health Promotion and Primary Care and Prevention Committee. She became the first Chair of PUNCH, the Political Action Arm of WSNA, which today as the WSNA-PAC, continues to play a vital role in educating legislators, nurse members and the public about the many contributions nurses make to health care in this state.
Her Professional Achievements and Peer Recognition are numerous and include: Elizabeth Sterling Soule Scholarship Award; King County Nurses Association, Nurse of the Year Award 1963; Chris Memorial Award, “Mrs. Reynolds Needs a Nurse” Film Excellence; ANA Membership Award from WSNA; Honorary Membership Award from ANA; Distinguished Alumni Award, School of Nursing, University of Washington; President’s Award, King County Nurses Association, 1990; University of Washington Health Sciences Service Award, 1992; Lifetime Achievement from the Washington State Nursing Foundation, 1995; and in 1998 the Washington State Nurses Association Hall of Fame Award.