June 18, 2020
SVSU professor earns lifetime achievement award after decades-long dedication to nursing education
With a deep sense of the history of modern nursing and an understanding of the profession’s importance during this critical moment, Sally Decker’s recent recognition as a statewide lifetime achievement award recipient was especially meaningful to the well-decorated Saginaw Valley State University educator.
“This is both the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and the time of a pandemic,” Decker said. “The world is recognizing the knowledge and compassion of nurses and all other members of the healthcare team, and all of them deserve this award. I am especially honored to receive the award at this point in history.”
“We all recognize the need to nurture and educate the next generation to be able to care for and protect the vulnerable,” she said. “I appreciate all of the support and encouragement I have received from professors, colleagues, and healthcare team members over the years.”
The award is a well-deserved honor for Decker, her colleagues say.
“She has been unwavering in her lifelong commitment and dedication to the nursing profession and to nursing education,” said Karen Brown-Fackler, an SVSU associate professor of nursing.
“Sally is a continuous learner. She not only stays current in the content of her own courses; she sends other faculty articles related to courses that they teach as well. Although she is the most senior faculty member in the department, she often accepts the biggest work load with the most course preparations.”
The lifetime achievement award is the latest validation of Decker’s decades-long dedication to providing nursing education to others. Decker received SVSU's highest faculty honors, winning the Landee Award for Teaching Excellence in 2002 and the Warrick Award for Excellence in Research in 1991. In 2018, she was the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholar award
, which provided her the opportunity to instruct faculty members at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland on how best to utilize simulation technology in nursing education.
Decker began her professional life practicing nursing while serving her country. As a captain in the U.S. Army, she served first as a staff nurse and later as head nurse at the U.S. Army Womack Hospital at Fort Bragg in North Carolina after earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Maryland in 1972.
She joined the ranks of higher education in 1978 as a research assistant and nurse clinician at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Decker earned a master’s degree in nursing from the institution. She also received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1990.
She joined SVSU’s faculty in 1980.
Her four decades at the campus have been defined in part by her passion for bringing a global perspective of nursing to her students. She has led SVSU students on study abroad experiences in England, Australia and Nepal. Those experiences focused on the differences in health care in different nations and cultures.
Her academic interests extend to providing education to her peers overseas. One month before the pandemic reached Michigan, Decker in February 2020 traveled to Trinity and St. James Hospital in Dublin to participate in a research project relating to interprofessional learning.
One of her current research interests was inspired by knowledge gained during her experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Dublin. Decker is researching how changes in the levels of moisture beneath the skin can indicate the need for medical intervention to prevent pressure ulcers.
Another focus of interest in Decker’s professional life involves the simulation technology-based education she introduced to her peers in Dublin. She was the first member of SVSU’s faculty to earn certification in simulation-based education.
Decker over the years has played a leading role in developing SVSU curriculum for nursing education courses, colleagues say. Those academic programs include both a bachelor’s and master’s degree-level nursing program, a doctor of nursing practice program as well as an initiative tailored specifically for providing working registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.