Risner inspires others while staying true to her roots
By Shelia Kirven
June 1, 2022
Rachel Risner has not been one to be satisfied with minimal requirements for her nursing career and is going all the way to the top to ensure that she is making a positive impact on her patients and nursing students.
“It’s been a journey. It started out in my much younger days. I was taking care of a young man that had cerebral palsy, and I was working as a home health aide. He really inspired me to do more. And so that’s really how my career in nursing started.” She went on to say, “It opened my eyes to want to go into nursing.”
After finishing her basics at Oklahoma City Community College, she applied for the nursing program and completed her Associate of Applied Science and Nursing in 2005.
She went to Oklahoma City University, where she completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and graduated in 2007.
Risner began working in a hospital, starting in Med Surge and ICU and eventually moved into a wound care position. Yet, something inside her kept nudging her to do more.
After being accepted to Frontier Nursing University, she completed her Master of Science in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner in 2010. She had also begun working as a nurse educator in 2008 while going to school. She is a full-time nurse educator in an administrative position and continues as a part-time family nurse practitioner.
Risner went back to Oklahoma City University to complete her Doctor of Nursing Practice with a Clinical Focus and graduated in 2013. Her doctoral project focused on decreasing prescription drug abuse in the clinical setting.
Yet again, she felt she was still missing something. She then received a double doctorate completing her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Education in 2016. Her dissertation focused on the FDA’s up scheduling of hydrocodone and the effect of nurse practitioner pain management practices.
She now works for Frontier Nursing University out of Kentucky. In 2018, she became Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and is also the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning Director, the Quality Enhancement Program Director, doing this since 2018 while still practicing as a part-time family nurse practitioner.
Risner has also done overseas work for several years, working with the American Institute of Health Care Quality and the American Gulf International Consulting Agency, traveling to the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, working in hospitals to provide healthcare consulting and teaching a course on certified professional and infection control.
She is an accreditation commission for nursing education peer evaluator and evaluation review panel member and is very involved in the National League of Nursing (NLN). She was the NLN AARP Representative for the American Indian Alaska Native Work Group, a native curriculum committee member, and American Indian Alaska Native webinar committee member and presenter. She helped the same group develop a tool kit for faculties to work with American Indian and Native Alaskan students. She is also working with the NLN on diversity, equity, and inclusion series for which they have been developing workshops and webinars. She is an NLN Step into Leadership Coach and is on their strategic action group.
Risner has recently been nominated for the NLN Governor At-Large Position, which she says is an esteemed position on the NLN board. “I was extremely excited just to be nominated,” she said.
She is a committee member and contributor to the Oklahoma state plan to decrease prescription drug abuse, has published on prescription drug abuse and is a professional member of several educational and research organizations.
Risner said she is also very proud to be a member of a small group of Native American nurses in Oklahoma that came together 18 months ago to develop the first official organization in the state called the Oklahoma Indigenous Nurses Association, of which she is president-elect.
“We have been doing some phenomenal work. We did just respond to the American Nurses Association’s reckoning statement that they put out providing language surrounding Indigenous populations and how we would like that language that they provided to include the word ‘Indigenous’ in their statement,” said Risner. “We did receive a very nice response from them.”
She said she is grateful for the Choctaw Nation’s educational assistance. “It was so helpful. I come from a home that was also underserved, and we struggled, and it was difficult for me to go to school. I had to take out student loans to pay my way through school.”
She said she also received other services, such as the clothing allowance.
“It made a world of difference. Plus, just being able to have medical care and having that available was huge, not just through my childhood, but through my adult life and not having to worry about paying for that outside of everything else that was impacting me. It was also so helpful.”
Today, Risner is making an impact in the world of nursing and continues to do so from her native state of Oklahoma.
“I am just trying to stay true to my roots and make sure I am encouraging others to go out there and spread their wings and know that you can always do more and help others and be kind and be compassionate. There’s always work to do. It may be busy, and it may be time-consuming, but we can always do something to impact somebody,” said Risner.
She has advice for anyone who wants to get started in the nursing field.
“I have a simple statement for you. Positive thoughts, positive actions, positive reactions,” said Risner. “That’s the motto I live by. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Anything. Regardless of where you come from. You can do anything, and you can accomplish anything. You just have to work hard.”
Her future goal is to move up in administration. Risner would love to be the provost for a large university one day and would love to work for the National League of Nursing to influence health policy and nursing in a much more significant way to impact the nation positively.
Through everything she is involved in, Risner said she still takes time out for herself and practices self-care. “Self-care is so important. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of anybody else. We’ve got to feed ourselves. We’ve got to feed ourselves spiritually, health-wise, mentally, everything.”
Risner said she hopes that this article can inspire one person. She said she would love to mentor someone and wanted our readers to know that she’s always there with anything she can do to help someone.
Rachel can be reached by emailing [email protected]