Deborah E. Jones, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CNE has been a nurse for over 20 years, and through it all, she had one person by her side—her son.
She hadn’t always planned to become a nurse. In fact, she first received a bachelor’s degree in natural science and mathematics with a minor in chemistry and health education. Deborah decided to pursue a nursing career because she easily connects with others and shows concern, but she also had her son in mind when she chose this path.
“I became a single mother after a divorce, and I knew that nursing could provide a way for me to continue the standard of living that my son and I had become accustomed to,” she said.
While in nursing school, Deborah worked full-time as a patient care technician (PCT) in the burns and trauma unit to support herself and her son while her degree was still in progress. After graduation, Deborah worked in various positions at different hospitals. She then received her master’s degree, and eventually, her doctorate degree in nursing research. After receiving her PhD, she worked as an assistant professor at several universities, then later, served as a dean at Hampton University. After four years in deanship, she decided to pursue a nurse practitioner role, following the MSN-PHMNP track at University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Through all these changes, challenges, and achievements, Deborah’s son, Gregory, was with her.
“He was instrumental in helping me obtain my PhD,” Deborah said. “He would go to Lister Hill Library with me to locate and copy the journal articles for papers and my dissertation research. We would divide and conquer! He has seen me through all my nursing degrees.”
Little did she know then, that one day, he would follow in her footsteps.
Deborah still remembers a conversation in which someone told her that nurses should encourage their children to pursue nursing, but Gregory told her he wanted to own a funeral home. Still, though she didn’t ever expect him to become a nurse, his choice to pursue nursing just seemed right. She knew this was the career for him.
“I took him by my unit at University of Alabama Birmingham on Sundays after church to visit with my patients. He had a way of cheering the patients up and they would be happy to meet my son,” Deborah said. “He also had to spend the night in the critical care unit when I would go in to cover a call-out. He would always find himself out on the unit after being told to stay in my office.”
Gregory said that he always knew he wanted to make a positive difference in the world. He just did not always know that a nursing career was going to be the path that took him there.
“I intimately witnessed my mother navigate her journey through the paradigm of nursing from the very beginning. That gave me the opportunity to experience many nurses and understand the value of what nurses bring to our country,” Gregory said. “I was refreshed by the flexibility of nursing, and I knew that I would be able to design my own altruistic lane if I thought outside the box and applied myself.”
Gregory earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a minor in Leadership Studies in 2014 from Hampton University. Now, he is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice. In 2020, he was inducted virtually into Sigma Nursing. Deborah attended his ceremony on Zoom, just as he attended her induction ceremony at the University of Alabama at Birmingham 20 years ago.
“Being inducted into Sigma myself felt pretty nostalgic,” Gregory said, thinking back on his attendance at his mother’s ceremony.
After graduating, Gregory spent two years in a remote access clinic nursing for the Dine’ and Hopi tribes in northern Arizona. He then moved to Olympia, Washington, where he worked in involuntary crisis stabilization and jail diversion work for three years, then went on to do a mixture of voluntary and involuntary crisis stabilization work for civil populations in addition to competency restoration work with mentally ill offenders across cities in Washington.
Deborah and Gregory have a lot in common as a mother-son duo, like their passion for nursing and their membership in Sigma. Through every phase of Deborah’s nursing career, she could take comfort in having her son by her side.
Now, she is elated to be able to do the same for him. In 2021, the two secured a grant together to open the first ever peer-run mental health respite in Washington that helps people with mental health challenges to successfully transition from more restrictive settings back into the community. They hope to open the facility by the end of the year.
Deborah E. Jones, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CNE is a member of Sigma’s Nu Chapter. She is a Sigma Foundation for Nursing Virginia Henderson Fellow and was in Sigma’s first class of Scholars in the Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy. She has volunteered to review grant applications and any other opportunities through the Foundation. She is currently practicing full-time as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in Baltimore, Maryland, and continues to volunteer as a grant reviewer and other opportunities. She also is the Clinical Director at Lucid Living, LLC.
Gregory Jones II, BS, RN, joined Sigma in 2020 and is a member of Delta Chapter. He currently serves as the Clinical Director of Peer Services at Lucid Living, LLC, a healthcare delivery organization that works passionately to facilitate and provide less restrictive support to psychiatric populations in their community.