The recent retirement of Dr. Deborah Kisner, Dean of the Fairmont State University School of Nursing and Allied Health Administration, caps her 30-year career at Fairmont State. Kisner participated in dramatic growth in programs that educate students to become health care professionals and programs that train those who will teach students entering these careers.
Originally from Washington, Pa., Kisner has lived in Fairmont since 1976. Before starting her career at Fairmont State, she worked as a nurse at Fairmont General Hospital and Monongalia General Hospital.
She began working as an instructor at FS in 1971 and also has served as an instructor at West Virginia University and Alleghany College. While working at FS, she received a Master of Science in Nursing degree and a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction from West Virginia University. At FS, she moved from assistant professor to associate professor to full professor and director and professor of nursing education. From 1998 to 2002, she served as chairperson and professor in the School of Health Careers. She served as chairperson and professor in the School of Nursing & Allied Health Careers from 2002 until she retired in December 2005.
"Dr. Kisner has been a highly successful and effective leader," said Dr. Anne Patterson, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost for FSU.
"Her expertise in her academic areas enabled her to find some very creative solutions to challenging problems during her terms as chair and then as dean. She has certainly brought honor to Fairmont State and has given the institution her total commitment. We will miss her."
Kisner's reflections on her years at Fairmont State are marked by dramatic changes and growth. When she started at FS, 43 students per year were being admitted into the nursing program. That number has now grown to 96 students per year. The number of faculty members has also grown, from seven to 16.
The nursing program has grown from offering only associate degrees to offering baccalaureate degrees in nursing and in allied health administration, as well as a collaborative master's degree with Marshall University. Fairmont State's nursing programs are now accredited by two national accrediting bodies in addition to state and regional accrediting bodies. Students have improved their performance on the nursing licensure exam, from scoring, on the average, in the low 80s about 15 years ago to a current average of 94.
During Kisner's years at FS, the nursing program relocated from the basements in Colebank Hall, Wallman Hall and Hunt-Haught Hall to the Education Building situated in the center of the campus.
"It was amazing how the move changed the attitudes of both the students and faculty alike and made us become a vital part of the campus community," she said.
Kisner said the best part of her job has been seeing how students progress as they move through FS.
"I think that has been most rewarding, seeing the students coming into the program and growing in skill and in knowledge over a very short period of time," she said.
The advice Kisner has for those considering a career in nursing and those considering a career teaching nursing is very much the same.
"I think you have to have a good solid work ethic. You also have to have compassion and to be willing to go the extra yard, academically, physically and mentally. You have to be a strong critical thinker," she said.
"You also have to be flexible, both to be a nurse and to be a nursing educator. Neither of these are just jobs. You can't just turn it off when you walk out the door. Nursing is about being part of a team, and every member of the team is a valuable member."
Kisner said she has been fortunate to work with the best students and faculty and to have had a lot of institutional support over the years.
"We have been such a cohesive and hard-working group," she said.
Her retirement plans include traveling around the U.S. with her husband Gene in their motor home and doing some volunteer work.