Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Nora Danning
Although Nora Danning completed her first year as a full-time nursing instructor for Mendocino College (MC) in May 2011, she has been a nurse for over 30 years. "I wanted to be a nurse, even as a child," she says, "but I never expected to be a teacher as well!"
Danning, who grew up in Sunnyvale, CA, began her academic journey at DeAnza Community College. Continuing her education at Cal State University, Long Beach (CSULB), she applied to the nursing school there - twice! - but was not admitted. Unwilling to give up her dream, she earned an associate degree as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) at Long Beach City College, then applied to nursing school at CSULB again. At that time, Danning notes, LVN to RN Bridge Programs did not exist. When she was not admitted a third time, the dean of nursing told her: "If someone drops out, we will let you in at mid-year." Someone did drop out, and two years later Danning finally graduated with a B.S. Degree in Nursing (BSN), and an RN.
She moved to Ukiah in 1982, and spent most of her career in nursing leadership and case management at Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC). One day in the break room at UVMC, she noticed a flier for a part-time clinical instructor at Pacific Union College (PUC). "I had always enjoyed mentoring newly hired nurses," she says, "and teaching a class sounded like fun." While she was teaching at PUC on Sundays and working at UVMC during the week, she was approached about teaching clinical nursing part-time at MC. She accepted.
"Tuesdays were so much fun!" she says. "Taking the students to the hospital was like taking kids to Disneyland for the first time! They were so excited and enthusiastic, I felt energized in a way I had not felt in my career in years."
Although her full-time job moved to Howard Memorial Hospital (HMH) in Willits, she continued teaching clinical nursing part-time at MC for three years, until a new full-time nursing position was funded, primarily by gifts and donations from the three local hospitals: UVMC, HMH, and Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport. She was thrilled to be selected for the position! "The nursing students are bright, motivated, and ambitious," she says, "which makes my job challenging and fun."
Although she enjoys the classroom part of her job, Danning says her greatest pleasure is being at the hospital with her students. She says her teaching style is empathetic and patient, especially in clinical settings. She believes her students and colleagues may be surprised "to learn how tenacious I can be. I don't give up easily!"
Danning says the MC nursing program had 140 applications this year, but only 18 spaces in the first year class. Once students qualify for the nursing program, based on criteria including grades and pre-requisites, the state requires a random lottery to select the final 18 students. She encourages prospective nurses to "Be persistent. Keep your eye on the prize."
Besides nursing, Danning's past includes keeping score for Little League games (her first job), and working at a dry cleaner during high school. She worked the tray line in the dorm cafeteria during college until she earned her LVN, then she worked as an LVN while earning her BSN.
Danning and her husband, Bill, met in a social dance class at MC ten years ago, and have been dancing ever since. She has adult twin daughters, Rebecca and Rachael Coyne.