Debbie Freece: A lifetime of friendship and support

by Melissa L. Weber
Debbie Freece
Debbie Freece

“Nursing is always evolving, moving forward,” said Debbie Freece, MS, ('79 MS). “I want to support students in the profession. Especially this year – 2020 is the Year of the Nurse.”

Encouraged to become a nurse by her sister and her aunt, Freece attended (what was then) The Ohio State University School of Nursing at a time when the nursing educational experience was also evolving. “The school was trying a new way of teaching and learning,” said Freece. “We didn’t have grades; they focused on mastery of subject matter.”

Dean Grayce Sills, PhD, RN, FAAN, was one of her professors. “She emphasized group projects and I hated them,” she said with a smile. “I just wanted to get the work done. But in the real world, we must work together to give good patient care.”

Other advice from faculty stuck with her as well. “Dr. Pat Donahue* wrote the book on nursing history. She told us, ‘You will join your professional organization and you will volunteer.’”

Freece, who specialized in geriatric nursing, had only been working at Arlington Court, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, for a year when she was asked to become the nursing director. “Fortunately, OSU had my back,” she said. “I took nearly every continuing education course they offered.” A few years later, she completed her master’s degree. “I was blessed to participate in a sponsored traineeship that covered tuition,” she said.

Freece spent 22 years working with the Mid-Ohio District Nurses Association. Now, she is chair of the Nursing History Committee in the Medical Heritage Center at Ohio State. A pet project: collecting oral histories from nurses. “I love being part of this. The interviews are archived so researchers can hear firsthand accounts of a day in the life of a staff nurse, a school nurse, a public health nurse,” and others.

She enjoys networking and reconnecting with old friends at College of Nursing alumni activities such as the annual tailgate and hockey night. The events are fun, and many have a scholarship component, she pointed out. “I appreciate these events and want to make sure they keep happening," she said.

*Mary Patricia (Pat) Donahue, PhD, RN, FAAN, wrote the book Nursing: The Finest Art: An Illustrated History.