Each year during National Nurses Week, the Houston Chronicle recognizes an exceptional group of women and men in its ‘Salute to Nurses’ special section. This year, two nurses from Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital, Debbie Barrera and Cassandra Duran, were selected for the Top 15 nurses in the area, and Baylor’s Shambra Exum was selected among the top 150. Learn more about them below, and gain insight into some of the different career paths that are available in nursing.
Deborah Barrera, B.S.N., A.D.N.
Nurse Manager and Instructor
Department of Pediatrics – Research Resource Office
What made you decide to become a nurse? In my church youth group, we had a youth pastor who noticed that I liked to help people. He suggested I consider nursing, and I was instantly drawn to the profession after learning more about it. Before that happened, I thought I would become a musician; my mother was completely surprised by my career choice!
What is your nursing educational background? I received my Associate Degree in Nursing from Alvin Community College in 1991 and my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UTMB – School of Nursing in 2007.
How long have you worked at BCM / Texas Children’s Hospital? I have been here for 5 years now and I love it! My primary role is to provide leadership for our research coordination team, and we offer research support wherever needed throughout the Department of Pediatrics.
What is the best thing about being a nurse? The most challenging? I love meeting families and providing them with new health opportunities for their children. Being able to offer some hope for new treatments or even new knowledge about their child’s condition is really an incredible honor. The most challenging is when I see families with unmet needs, it breaks my heart. I feel fortunate if I can help them find solutions in these situations.
How have you been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? My family and I have been very fortunate with no COVID illnesses. I definitely miss the socialization we enjoyed in our office before the pandemic and look forward to having gatherings again when it is safe to do so.
What is your favorite thing about working at BCM and in your clinic and/or department? Being part of such an awesome team! The research coordinators/nurses, data managers and PIs I work with are all so brilliant; it’s like walking among giants in the field.
What would you tell a young person considering nursing? I would say go for it! There are so many different professional pathways you can take in nursing, and it is so rewarding when you help a patient. In fact, I am proud to say that my own daughter has also chosen nursing and is finishing her first year of college!
Cassandra Duran, M.S.N., R.N.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics – Academic General
What made you decide to become a nurse? Growing up with a sick mother who was in and out of the hospital throughout my childhood inspired me to go into nursing. I still remember the look on my mom’s face when I told her I wanted to be a nurse. She was always so proud and supportive.
What is your educational background? In 2007, I obtained my Associate Degree in Nursing from San Jacinto College, and in 2009, I obtained by Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree from Texas Tech University. In 2014, I received my Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner from Texas Woman’s University, and in 2019, I achieved my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
How long have you worked at BCM / Texas Children’s Hospital? I have worked at BCM / Texas Children’s Hospital for the past 6 years.
What is the best thing about being a nurse? The most challenging? The best thing about being a nurse is making a positive impact in people’s lives daily. Knowing that I am positively influencing these individuals’ lives is so gratifying to me. I think the most challenging part about being a nurse is seeing and hearing our patients’ circumstances and not being able to help them more.
How have you been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? COVID-19 has been extremely difficult for many people across the world. I chose to look at the positive impact the pandemic has had in our lives. Personally, I think the pandemic served as a re-boot for all of society. It allowed all of us to realize what is truly important in life and to not take little things in for granted. I almost feel like the pandemic gave us all a second shot at life.
What is your favorite thing about working at BCM and in your clinic and/or department? My favorite thing about working at BCM is being offered various educational learning opportunities. These have proven to be invaluable to me. My favorite thing about working in my clinical setting is making a difference in the lives of underserved children every day.
What would you tell a young person considering nursing? Take each and every opportunity offered to you. Do not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone because if will allow you to grow professionally and personally. Being open and willing to take on different opportunities has truly made me the healthcare provider I am today.
Shambra Exum, L.V.N.
Department of Dermatology
What made you decide to become a nurse? Growing up, my aunt Loretta was a nurse and she made it seem like such a glamorous career. I decided to follow in her footsteps, and it was a great choice.
What is your nursing educational background? I attended Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas where I graduated from the Vocational Nursing Program.
How long have you worked at BCM? I have worked at BCM for 23 years.
What is the best thing about being a nurse? The most challenging? One of the best things about nursing that I find to be rewarding is the bond that is formed with the patient and their families and being able to put a smile on their faces. Covid-19 brought with it many challenges but overall, we have managed and continue to move forward.
How have you been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? During the pandemic it was hard not being able to spend birthdays, holidays and free time with family. We stayed connected with facetime and even sending out cards and letters via snail mail.
What is your favorite thing about working at BCM and in your clinic / department? I truly enjoy being a part of BCM. Dermatology is a smaller close-knit department, and my co-workers are my second family. It is such an honor to be surrounded by world class doctors and staff.
What would you tell a young person considering nursing? I would tell any young person considering a career in nursing to do it without hesitation. The possibilities are endless.