Autism Spectrum Disorder Residential Program Interviews

Interview w/ Deborah Dinicola, On-Call Nurse for Hillcrest’s ASD Population

Name: Deborah Dinicola
Title: On-Call Nurse
Campus: ASD 
Former Positions: Full-Time Nurse, Head Nurse
Year Started: 1991

Do you remember how you first found out about the nursing job at Hillcrest?
I remember reading it in the paper. There was an opening here for a nurse. I didn’t even know what Hillcrest was, but I knew they were looking.

So had you worked as a nurse before or was this your first nursing job?
No, I’ve been a nurse for forty-something years. I was working in a nursing home when I first got out of school. Then I was a hospital nurse. I did medical, surgical, I’ve worked on call in doctor’s offices.

So what have you found you like about working here versus other settings?
I think initially, I found it was a culture shock to come here and see the clients and everything, but then I realized, “Wow, these kids are survivors.” They’ve been through more in their short lives than most of the adults I know. And they’re here to show us what they got. I found them pretty amazing.

What appealed to you about the job when you were applying and going through the interview process? 
I was moving from on-call at the hospital when my children were in middle school. I wanted to move from on-call to a full time position now that they were older and everything. It wasn’t until I got here and saw the kids that I realized, you know, I think I really like this. There were other specialties in nursing that I enjoyed, but this one is kind of psychiatric, school nursing, and pediatric nursing all in one. 

And do you find that you’re able to form relationships with your patients more than in other settings?
Oh yeah, definitely. In the hospital, they move patients out so fast. Here you can stay with them and get to know them. 

What are the happiest moments for you while working here?
I’ve gone for days smiling after hearing a kid, whose voice that I’d never heard before, let me know if they wanted water or juice with their meds. One word. Just to hear their voice and everything. Something like that, I can smile for days.

On the flip side, what are the hardest parts of your job? 
I think that a lot of nursing, you’re trying to gather information about how they’re feeling. And a lot of these kids, they either can’t tell you how they’re feeling or, for whatever reason, they don’t want to tell you. So it’s kind of challenging trying to figure out what’s going on for them. 

What surprised you the most about the job and Hillcrest?
I think intellectually I knew there were children that met the qualifications to come to a place like Hillcrest. But in my life, I hadn’t really been exposed to them. So I knew about them, but meeting them and seeing them in person was like, “Wow!” In a good way and a bad way. 

Who are the most influential people in your work life? 
I think other nurses have always been important to me and there have been a lot of nurses here that have been very supportive. 

What kind of person do you think succeeds as a nurse at Hillcrest? 
I think there’s something that makes most people want to be nurses that Hillcrest brings out in you also. To help people, to make a difference. 

And so if they have a desire, you think they’ll be able to find it here?
Oh yeah!

Any favorite stories about the students?
One little girl here at Hillcrest Center—back when the campus was for younger children—had gone home for the weekend and it had been her birthday. So when she came back, I asked her, “What happened during the weekend? What’s different about you now?” I was expecting, “I’m a year older” or “It was my birthday.” She whispers [holds hand near mouth to indicate secret], “I had a sex change operation.” That was just one of the funnier things. I don’t know if that’s a repeatable one, but it’s one of the unexpected things they say.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I think another thing that kept me with Hillcrest was, coming from the hospital, I felt we were treated like a badge number or a license or something like that. I liked what Hillcrest was trying to do and that they were trying to improve themselves. And they could do that while treating their employees in much nicer way than some of the bigger institutions. 


*******This interview has been lightly edited and condensed*******

Interested in a rewarding jobs working with kids? Check out our job openings. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Don’t forget to read our interview with Brookside Assistant Supervisor Sam Pabi.

2 comments on “Interview w/ Deborah Dinicola, On-Call Nurse for Hillcrest’s ASD Population

  1. Queenmary Nkemdilim obiechie

    its really encouraging and fascinating involving in moulding lives and empowering
    them for the future
    however I tried to open your career portal is not opening Profer solution please



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