Rebekah Burley – School Nurse

Rebekah Burley standing in her officeRebekah Burley can’t remember not wanting to be a nurse. It’s in her blood. Her grandmother, who lived to be 101, was a nurse. So was her mother, along with two older sisters.  

After graduating from NNU with her degree in nursing, she spent 12-and-a-half years caring for adults in a hospital setting before coming to work at Reagan and Park Ridge – a move that should have come as no surprise to her husband. 

“I told him when we got married that one day, I would become a school nurse and just stay in that job,” she said, noting that it allows her to care for kids while also being on the same schedule as her own children. That was five years ago. Four years ago she added the title of District Nursing Coordinator.

The job is a demanding one, requiring the broad knowledge of a general practitioner as well as the deductive reasoning of a skilled diagnostician.

In the course of a day, she can be called on to care for catheters and tracheotomies, manage diabetes care and distribute medications. In addition to applying Band-Aids, soothing bumps, stings and bruises, and diagnosing colds, she also gently probes beyond students’ obvious complaints. With some insightful questions, she might learn that a tummy ache stems from poor food choices or lack of regular meals, or that lack of focus may be a symptom of a more serious concern.

“My biggest challenge is finding a balance between taking care of kids and meeting their needs, and keeping them at school,” she said. “I want them to be healthy, to be here and to be learning. It’s why we are here. Being here and advocating for these kids is important.”

Outside of work, Rebekah focuses on home and family, which consists of her husband of 19 years, a son and a daughter, and two beloved dogs – a golden doodle and a black lab/golden doodle mix. If you ask what she’s good at, she’ll tell you it’s being a mom – a role that gives her absolute satisfaction.

“If money was not an issue, I’d probably be a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “I want to make sure my kids have a good solid foundation in their faith and that they can be successful when they grow up and able to do life independently.”

Rebekah has a good foundation of her own to build on. She grew up as one of six kids in Toppenish, Washington, near Yakima. Her family owned an apple orchard until she was about 8 or 9, and she spent her younger years running, playing, getting dirty and swimming in the ditch (despite having an above-ground pool option).

After her family sold the orchard, her dad opened a janitorial franchise, providing what she remembers as a “good life.”  

“He was an incredible entrepreneur and excelled at his job,” she recalls.

He also was a role model for her, always making sure to be there for her important moments. “He wasn’t afraid to drag us down the road on sleds behind the tractor, or do other fun things with us,” she recalls. “It wasn’t monetary things, it was just being present.”

Throughout her childhood, her family was active in the Nazarene church in nearby Zillah. Growing up, she actively participated in Nazarene camps and other activities. She even met her husband at a church-sponsored event while she was attending NNU.

As an extension of her faith, she has served two medical mission trips to Brazil, and in high school spent an entire summer on a mission trip to Africa.

“We did evangelism through drama and theater, and even dressed as clowns,” she said. “We visited schools, mostly, but also set up a big top tent in Uganda.” 

That’s pretty significant given her quiet nature, both then and now. Given what she’s learned from this and other experiences, she wishes she could tell her younger self that it’s OK to just be who you are. “God has good plans for you, and it’s OK,” she said.

For her, that plan includes enjoying the outdoors – including camping, jet boating and fishing. She likes catching trout and steelhead salmon and has helped her husband reel in an almost 8-foot sturgeon in Hells Canyon. She also enjoys family movies, the ocean and cuddling up with a warm cup of coffee on a snowy day.

In the end, she hopes to be remembered for being there for others. “I want people to know I wasn’t out to make it big or be successful. I just wanted to be there for a person when they needed it.