Meet Devyn Denton, Founder and President – Operation Nurses Helping Nurses & Nyved Consulting, LLC
Tell us a little bit about what your career in public service and why you chose this path in the first place?
For me, there was no other option. Public service is in my DNA, it is the very fiber of my being. Service to others is also in my bloodline. I grew up watching my mother and grandmother discover countless ways to be of service to our Oklahoma City community, and the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. My family and I believe in the power of selfless acts. Meeting the needs of others is my life job; it’s something I look forward to doing because it is truly the source of my joy.
At what age did you first decide that public service was something you might like to pursue?
At 6 or 7 is when I began servicing my community in a meaningful and consistent way. No matter your age, we can do our part to help those in need, a perspective I passed along to my children. Even my daughter followed in my footsteps early in life. She and I used to have a pretty, big garden; acres and acres of land produced more food than my family could eat. Together, we collected the extra food and invited people over. Whatever they picked, they kept. Those unable to travel to us, we travelled to them with bags and bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. We especially provided food to people unable to leave their homes due to illness or financial challenges.
What do you think are some of the qualities a woman needs to be successful in public service?
As a woman, you are more than capable and innately prepared to lead through service. Be a “football player/ballerina.” Learn when to shift and balance, but also know when to be graceful. In character and disposition, remain ladylike…poised, respectable, genuine. Do not hesitate to be aggressive or assertive when a persuasive flare is needed. Know your worth. All life and extensions of life come from a woman and all life must pass through a woman. Everything in this life is connected to you. Remember that. It never occurred to me I was incapable of doing anything I set my mind to, my mother never allowed me to fall into the trap of self-doubt. She encouraged me to go to college at 13 years old and even start my own business at a young age. We must encourage all young girls and women in the same manner. If you think you can, you can. It’s important to begin empowering girls and women without using a “box” of conformity. Freely express and own who you are, let it shine through in your service to others. Nurture the world as only women can do.
I’m an excellent communicator, dynamic speaker and open-minded healer. I’m attuned and in tune with the needs of others; dependable, a passionate and knowledgeable self-starter. I have an excellent rapport with patients and care team providers and I’m well-regarded in the professional community. People know that their family health issues as well as their own are all safe with me.
What are some of the drawbacks to being in public service?
In life, there are bound to be drawbacks. For public service in particular, the balancing act can be quite draining on the spirit and body. You’re constantly pulled in different directions. Life in the public eye as a healthcare liaison and community figure can also be tough. I must constantly work to protect my brand. In this industry, we often commit a lot of time, money, passion and heart to various projects and sometimes those projects may not have the reach you intended or hoped for. But you press on. You continue to move forward. You never stop because people are always in need and that’s the most important component, extending a helping hand.
What opportunities do you see for women who would like to pursue public service as a career choice?
There are many, many opportunities for women. Start young and stay hungry. Learn as much as you can about as much as you can, especially the various policies, bylaws and issues governing your work. Commit time to Foundations in your area. Volunteer. Research the legislative process and how to become a voice advocating for your career. Work the hardest and stay the longest, whatever you decide to do, be the very best at it. Do the most shadowing, the most internships, get the most career-affirming recommendations from professionals in your field; be the best student of your craft.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My incredible mother Dr. Dayle Aldridge was my first role model. I also fondly look up to my Grandmother who made sure every kid in our city had winter clothing, she personally made hundreds of hats, coats and gloves to ensure they had what they needed and every sick and shut in member of the community had dinner after church. I greatly admire and respect Oklahoma native and first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Pearl Mankiller, she was like a God-mother to me, teaching me amazing lessons infused with culture and strength. Leila Foley Davis, the first African-American female mayor in the United States has been a hero and a major influence. All of my first major projects she fully supported and stills encourages and supports me to this day. My latest addition is Dr. Millicent Gorham, CEO of National Black Nurses Association, she has been a driving force to continue my education so that it meets my experience and exceeds it.
What are some of the needs in public service that you see are lacking leadership or need a “woman’s touch?”
Politics. I believe there are not enough women running for leadership in political arenas. There are not enough women sitting on decision-making boards either. We must occupy these seats and ensure our voices are heard in our male-driven society. Our advantage as women, we address issues and challenges with an encompassing perspective of care and understanding. But we cannot hone or extend our insightful awareness if we don’t place ourselves in positions that allow us to do just that.
Answer either of these questions or both: What is the number one thing you would like to accomplish while you are in public service? Or: What is your Mission in public service?
I wish to bring awareness to compassion fatigue and how hard nurses, EMS, firefighters and police work on our behalf. I want to shed more light on the limited funding available for first-responders and non-profit organizations. We need more debriefing and more monies granted toward disaster, trauma and crisis work. Simply put, we need more help for our helpers.
What has been your greatest moment or achievement in public service to date?
One of my biggest achievements was traveling to Orlando to assist in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub. We provided direct support, equipment, material and food to Orlando regional medical staff and firefighters. This year, my non-profit Operation Nurses Helping Nurses Inc. adopted a school and all low-income students for Christmas. And we will continue to provide food and school materials to students for the remainder of the year.
If someone reading this article were interested in going into public service what is the first thing you would advise her to do?
First, I would say identify the passion from you which you want to advocate and commit to. Are you passionate about government, non-profits, policy reform, education, health, children, women or families? What do you wake up with already on your heart? Start there. Start with your passion, that’s the best first step to becoming an effective advocate for it in the public service arena. Research, research, research. Commit with your time and intent, stop at nothing to learn more and do more. Connect with others in your field, shadowing and interning not only helps get your foot in the door, it also helps you form imperative relationships with key figures already in your line of work who can help you navigate next steps and long-term goals. With anything in life, the first step is to go after it.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“Those who seek find.” It’s a favorite Chinese proverb I hold as dear as a bible verse. We must do something to get something out of this life. Wonder through life. Explore the possibilities. Challenge yourself. Believe. Trust in self. Go for it.
What resources do you recommend to anyone interested in pursing public service as a career choice.
I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Outliers. David Ramsey’s The Secret to Saving Money is also a great read. Read more than your fair share of entrepreneurial, education and finance books; they will greatly assist your career goals.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself being able to empower even more girls and young men in my community through the four LLC’s and three nonprofits I’ve successfully established. I see myself investing and reinvesting in my community.
What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I love to read. I enjoy anything related to salt life–beaches, scuba diving, etc. I appreciate my quiet time. I ride horses. I veg out and adore a peaceful sunrise or sunset.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me? To finish nurse practitioner school, open up several practices and pursue whatever is next in life. I remain open to all possibilities and opportunities. I will of course continue to find ways to serve rural and underserved populations in my state, as well as to change health and economy globally. www.onhn.org, www.dreampushmusic.com & www.nyved.com are my current businesses and more are in the pipeline.