Debbie Koch photo

Debbie Koch PhD in Nursing Education

Capella University doctoral student Debbie Koch was honored with the 2016 Outstanding Nurse Educator Award from Publishing Concepts, Inc., publisher of the Arkansas State Board of Nursing’s ASBN Update magazine.

The award was announced at the 10th Annual Nurse Educators Banquet held in Little Rock, Ark., and celebrates a nurse educator hero who goes above and beyond the call of duty and inspires others to do their best work.

Committed to Education: For Her Students and Herself

Koch displays a quiet passion and deep commitment to her field and her own education. After spending several years as an LPN/RN in Psych/Surgery, she pursued a master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas in order to gain entry into the world of teaching. She later earned a doctorate in nursing practice from the University of Tennessee. But even then, she wasn’t fully satisfied with her education. “I wanted to learn more about nursing education itself,” she says. She found exactly what she was looking for in Capella’s PhD in Nursing Education program, which focuses on the training and education of nurses, along with theories of teaching, classroom strategies, and course design and development—topics not usually covered in traditional nursing practice degrees. So she set to work on her second doctoral degree, which she anticipates completing in August 2017.

“I was a practicing nurse for many years, and I still practice as an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) once a week,” Koch explains. “But I’ve grown to really love teaching.” Her employer, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, has been very supportive of her continuing in active practice each week, as it builds even more credibility with her students. “I get to participate in clinicals with them, and clinical settings offer a unique learning platform,” she says. “Along with my clinical practice, I’m very excited to continue my own education so I can continue making a difference with my students.”

A Friendly but Firm Approach

Koch’s teaching philosophy involves openness and inquiry. “I don’t want to intimidate students,” she says. “I want them to be comfortable and learn. I’ve been a student in that classroom where the instructor makes you feel anxious. That approach leads to problems right away. I want students relaxed so they can dig in and learn what they can really do.” Capella’s coursework focused on teaching strategies and classroom assessment are enhancing her skills and understanding of how to work with students.

Her students can expect rigorous assignments, but not without coaching. “I keep an open dialogue with them,” she says. “They know they can come to me if they’re having trouble understanding something. I set up study sessions before a test. I’d rather have them prepared ahead of time and avoid having to backtrack”

She’s heard from several former students congratulating her since word of the award got out. “That really validates that I’m in the right field,” she says. On receiving the award itself, she adds, “I’m just truly honored. There were a lot of educators extremely qualified for this award. Receiving it was even better than getting a raise. Really!”


Learn more about Capella’s PhD in Nursing Education program.