Terrica Durbin (‘09,’20), director of the School of Nursing at Western Carolina University, is a remarkable nurse leader who has left an indelible mark on the field of nursing. Durbin’s journey is one of passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to patient care.
Durbin’s nursing career began with a strong desire to help others. Graduating with a BSN from Lewis-Clark State College, she soon found herself in the Army as a Nurse Corps officer serving in critical care units. Her dedication to the profession and the impact she made on patients’ lives drove her to pursue further education. In 2005, she embarked on a life-changing journey at UT to become a nurse anesthetist.
During her time at UT, Durbin greatly expanded her expertise. She obtained a PhD in education and cultural studies along with a DNP from the UT Health Science Center in Memphis.
“My time at UT was transformative,” said Durbin. “I spent a significant part of my career in various leadership roles and was privileged to work with some amazing nursing leaders. UT is blessed with world-class faculty and staff and is situated in a wonderfully supportive city that prioritizes education.”
UT not only provided Durbin with a solid academic foundation but also instilled in her the importance of leadership and advocacy. She served as interim assistant dean of graduate programs at UT before going to Western Carolina University.
“Through these leadership roles, I learned the value of mentorship, the importance of equity and inclusion, and I developed a keen understanding of health policy and of the dynamics of health care and education,” said Durbin.
It is through these values that Durbin has made significant contributions to nursing education and practice. She has served as an advocate for health equity in Appalachia, focusing on expanding opportunities for underrepresented individuals and fostering a welcoming environment for first-generation scholars.
“I worked with many nontraditional students during my time at UT, and I continue to work towards expanding opportunities in nursing to the wide variety of people and cultures who call Appalachia home,” said Durbin. “I collaborate with some amazing colleagues on initiatives designed to create welcoming spaces for first-generation scholars, for scholars from indigenous and underrepresented backgrounds, and for people from all walks of life. In my mind, we will not solve rural health disparities without expanding and diversifying the rural nursing workforce, and I see that as my calling.”
Durbin has had many impactful moments in her career, but none will top those experiences with patients who were not expected to survive their injuries. From an army paratrooper who came into her unit on a stretcher after a massive reconstruction and left under his own power weeks later to the firefighter who rescued children and animal from a burning house and visited two years later with his wife, those experiences were never forgotten.
“They take a piece of your heart,” said Durbin. “Nurses are privileged to be a part of miracles every day.”
Durbin’s leadership and compassionate approach have earned her recognition and accolades. She was among the alumni honored at the college’s 50the Anniversary Gala, and she has been involved in various volunteer positions and networking activities through American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiologists, the Rural Health Association of East Tennessee, and the Tennessee Association of Nurse Anesthetists that have broadened her perspectives and contributed to her professional growth.
“I would like to stress the importance of volunteering and networking in our profession,” said Durbin. “I learn something new with every volunteer position. Nurses can embody the spirit of being a Vol for Life, harnessing the power of volunteering and networking to make a lasting impact and enrich their professional journey.”