In her four decades as a nurse, the work of Debbie Brinker, MSN, RN, CNS, has contributed to the wellbeing and advancement of patients, students and the nursing profession. She has cared for children as a pediatric nurse, held leadership positions at the state and national level and shaped the careers of hundreds of students. Her mentorship, leadership and passion for the profession have rippled across the globe.
Brinker received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Washington and her Master of Science in Nursing as a Pediatric Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist from the University of California in San Francisco. She began her nursing career in Seattle as a staff nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital. Her work as a pediatric and critical care nurse has taken her from Washington state to the United States Air Force Hospital in Homestead, Florida, from Upstate New York to California’s Central Valley.
Brinker settled in the Inland Empire in 1992 and worked for 13 years as a clinical nurse specialist in the PICU at Deaconess Medical Center.
In 2002, Brinker joined the faculty of the Washington State University College of Nursing, where she currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for Clinical Affairs. Her teaching experience includes pediatrics and professional development and leadership education.
Brinker’s commitment to growing the future generation of nurses with a spirit of inquiry, quest for research and application of evidence in practice are invaluable. She gives all her students a solid foundation to lead and contribute with team members in achieving a culture of health. In recognition of her teaching excellence, WSNA gave Brinker the Nurse Educator Award in 2013.
In 2017, she became the first College of Nursing faculty member to receive the WSU President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Instructors and Clinical Faculty. In announcing the award, the University said, “Her teaching philosophy of ‘engage and transform’ is manifested in her research publications, positive student evaluations and affirming feedback from clinical site partners.” Brinker also has been honored by the WSU College of Nursing with both a Faculty Service Award and Undergraduate Faculty Award.
Brinker’s passion for supporting nursing students goes beyond WSNA. She also has served as the faculty advisor for the Nursing Students of Washington State for more than five years, where she has mentored students in leadership roles. She has acted as keynote speaker at the NSWS Convention on the topic of how to prepare an effective resume to get a nursing job. Brinker regularly brings busloads of students from the Spokane area across the state to Olympia for WSNA’s Nurse Legislative Day, impressing upon her students the importance of advocating for nursing practice and health care issues on behalf of all those in Washington state.
In addition to her teaching and mentoring, Brinker has stepped forward as a leader at both the state and national level. She is a national past president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Currently, Brinker serves as president of the Washington Center for Nursing, the statewide nursing workforce center, and is deeply committed to meeting WCN’s mission of supporting a healthier Washington by engaging nurses’ expertise, influence and perspective and by building a diverse, highly qualified nurse workforce to meet future demands. As the vital link to central and eastern Washington, Brinker has been critical to WCN’s work to establish a diversity mentoring program in Yakima, raise
awareness of implicit bias in Spokane and create a rural health advisory committee. None of these initiatives would have happened without her.
Brinker is also a member of the Leadership Washington Nursing Action Coalition, the statewide interprofessional effort that leverages nurses’ expertise to improve and transform the health care system. Responding to the alarming shortage of clinical placement experiences and clinical faculty to teach nursing, Brinker joined the Action Now! effort to improve nursing education. In that role, she is working with stakeholders to ensure the state has more residency and preceptorship programs for nursing students and new graduates in all settings.
From bedside nursing, to teaching and mentoring to leadership at the state and national level, Brinker’s work and dedication has influenced countless patients and students, and will continue to have a lasting impact on the nursing profession and the health of our communities.