In June of 1991, former Neurosurgery Department Head Shelley Chou, MD, and his wife, Jolene (herself a nurse), endowed the Jolene and Shelley Chou Excellence in Neuroscience Nursing Award. The award honors expertise in the field of neuroscience nursing, reflecting how a nurse assesses, plans for, provides, and evaluates nursing care for neuroscience patients and their families.

The award also recognizes a nurse who:

  • Has superior skills in interpersonal relationships and communication
  • Demonstrates sensitivity, a caring attitude, and consideration of the ethical dimensions of patient care
  • Promotes and contributes to evidence-based practice associated with the care of neuroscience patients and families.

34 years of service
The 2020 winner is Deb Quigley, BSN, CNRN®. At the time of the award, Quigley was preparing to retire from 34 years of service with the Neuroscience Unit (6A) at the University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC). She had been managing the unit for five years.

Quigley worked with Dr. Chou early in her career. “He was such a good teacher and felt that staff deserved education,” she said. “That affected me a lot.” Quigley noted that UMMC has, “great physicians who treat you as colleagues — some I’ve known since they were residents.”

So much to learn
She loved the neuroscience field and felt there was always so much to learn. “One cool thing about working in a university setting is the opportunity to help teach,” Quigley said. “The learning curve in neurosurgery is pretty steep and it’s rewarding to have new residents and nurses come in and watch their confidence build.”

Helping educate staff and residents was just one thing she loved about working in neuroscience. Her first priority were patients and their families. “I felt like we were impacting their lives in a such a positive way,” said Quigley.

Made an impact
Upon hearing that she won the 2020 Chou Award, she noted that, “It was a wonderful way to end my career. It was an acknowledgement that I had made an impact on patients and on colleagues. It’s rewarding to think that my work life made a difference.”

Quigley graduated from Winona State in 1979 and started her nursing career at the U of M that year. She worked at the University until 1983, then took a traveling job for seven years. “You work in parts of the country where there is a high need,” she said. “I was assigned to a hospital in Louisiana. I left Minnesota with a patient assignment of three to four maximum; in Louisiana, you could have up to 15 patients. I’m really glad I did it.” When her assignment was done, she returned to UMMC.

Having since retired, Quigley now occupies her time with things like knitting, sewing, scrapbooking, and reading. The COVID pandemic is making her a bit antsy, though. “I’m not real great at being home all the time,” she said.

Lifetime of learning
For those thinking about going into neuroscience nursing, Quigley says it’s an opportunity for a lifetime of learning. “Things change so fast,” she said. “It’s been unbelievable.” She also encourages those already in neuroscience nursing to become a Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN). “We’ve been working on our floor to encourage nurses to prepare for and take the test,” Quigley said. “We had four new people certify in neuroscience and two in stroke over the past year. I’m a neuroscience nurse and I’m proud of it.”

"When I informed Deb that she will be receiving the Chou Award, tears filled her eyes. I saw how much this Medical Center and the people here meant to her,” said Clark C. Chen, French Lyle Chair and Head of the Department of Neurosurgery. “During the Award ceremony, I witnessed a life of purpose, celebrated by gratitude of lives forever changed by her service, teaching, and dedication. We will miss Deb’s presence, but we will continue to be guided by her example.”