COOKEVILLE – To be a nurse is the opportunity to affect the lives of patients in a positive way. That’s what initially drew Bedelia Russell to the profession. Now as Associate Professor of Nursing in Tennessee Tech University’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing her potential impact has grown significantly as she helps teach and train other nurses.
Russell, who earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Tech before working in Nashville hospitals for a number of years, is in her 17th year at the university and was recently presented with the Outstanding Faculty Award for Professional Service.
“My philosophy about professional service is that we have an obligation to serve,” Russell said. “We serve because we have been given opportunities to gain experience, skills, knowledge and education to impact the greater good. We have God-given gifts and talents we are to use well. Often, this involves self-sacrifice of time or personal gain.”
When called to sacrifice her time for the university, Russell has risen to the occasion, serving as interim dean and director in the School of Nursing and associate dean in the College of Graduate studies during leadership transitions. She has also served on various new course, curriculum and program development committees; is currently coordinator of the School of Nursing’s Doctorate of Nursing Practice program and has served on more than 40 various committees at both the school and the university level.
Outside of Tech and in the larger community, Russell actively offers her expertise and passion for helping others. She currently serves on the Cookeville Regional Medical Center Charitable Foundation Board of Directors and volunteers with Heart of The Cumberland where she is a B.E.S.T. groups co-facilitator. B.E.S.T. groups provide school-based support groups for elementary and middle school children who have experienced loss due to death, divorce, incarceration, deployment, deportation, or other difficult family circumstances.
All of her service has contributed to opportunities for her students and given her experience she brings back to the classroom to make student learning relevant and interesting. Through her work with Heart of the Cumberland, new student clinical experiences are in development and will soon give students a chance to do clinical experience work in schools with B.E.S.T. groups.
Part of Russell’s role as a board member with the CRMC Charitable Foundation is to review and provide input into services rendered at CRMC and to determine which serves need funding by the Foundation. Her input has included being a voice to support and develop continuing education opportunities for professional nursing staff at the hospital, highlighting her work’s benefit to the greater Cookeville community of nurses.
“As an undergraduate alumna of Tennessee Tech, I have valued the opportunity to come back to Tech and serve through such diverse means,” Russell said. “I have learned so much through every service opportunity, but what I have gained the most over 17 years of professional service to the university is the greater appreciation and admiration of all the many talented faculty and staff, who, daily, model service for the greater good when they focus on service as a means for student and institutional success.”