Sara Cox - Reserach RN Coordinator
What’s your education background?
I graduated from Salish Kootenai College in 1998 with Associate Degree in Nursing. In 2012, I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Western Governors University online. I’m currently taking classes for the graduate certificate in Public Health here at U of M.
What brought you to Missoula?
I am a fifth-generation Montana kid. My mom’s people were farmers on the Rocky Mountain front. The first McClure in Montana was an Irish immigrant who married a Salish women and my dad’s people have been in the Flathead Valley ever since. I grew up in Polson with my kid brother where my dad was a guidance counselor and my mom a teacher. My mom got sick when we were young so the caregiver role started early for me and may explain why I became a nurse. I moved to Missoula after graduating and loved how it felt like a very inclusive almost big city with lots of interesting people from all walks of life while still surrounded by open spaces and beauty. While I have travelled a fair amount, I have never left home.
As a staff member, what is your role?
I am Clinical Research RN Coordinator for the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) grant at the University of Montana. University of Montana, along with 16 other institutions received these NIH awards with the goal of building infrastructure and personnel expertise for conducting clinical research involving rural children. To achieve this mission, Paul Smith, DO and the team including Erin Semmens PhD at UM was awarded 1.8 million. The funding allows assessment of various environmental factors that influences child health. Our goal is to increase the presence of rural and Native American kids in clinical research studies in US as this important group is currently underrepresented in national clinical trials
How long have you been with the University of Montana and the SPCHS? One year, I started in December of 2016.
What has your previous employment or background done to prepare you for your current position? I worked as an RN in Pediatrics, Pediatric ICU, and Neonatal ICU for 15 years at Community Medical Center. It was demanding yet rewarding work. I loved caring for families during some of their greatest challenges… having a child whose health and safety is at risk is terrifying and I was honored to be with them on the journey. Working as a floor nurse, you do see a lot of things that you cannot make better which was a frustrating downside. Children would come in with an acute issue, but it was clear that there were larger ongoing issues that had negative impacts on long-term health. What I love about my new career in Public Health is the focus on primary prevention and the “big picture” of creating the best possible life-long outcomes for communities.
If you give your 18-year-old-self one piece of advice about pursuing a college degree, what would it be?
The hardest thing to learn, and I didn’t learn it for a long time is no one achieves anything without discipline and sweat. These are skills that you learn and have to practice to get good at and when I was 18, I had not developed these habits. I took a nontraditional path in my academic life as a result. Suffice it to say it took me a bit longer than 4 years to achieve a degree! I was lucky enough to have amazing instructors when I entered nursing school who taught me how to be a strong nurse, but also how to navigate in the world of grown-ups.
What’s your favorite aspect of your position at University of Montana?
I love the people I work with in the School of Public Health. This will sound completely cliché, but their passion to make the world a better place is really inspiring. There is a lot of diverse work and study happening here that all has that one thing in common. The faculty really focus on helping students specialize in their field of interest and strengths. For myself, I love that I can work still work with kids but in a whole new way.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job and how do you find the positives in it? I did the same job for 15 years, so I got pretty good at it. Now, I’m brand new, in a new role and I’m still a nurse but in a different way. It is humbling but I also love finding fresh focus, asking questions and just putting myself out there for a new challenge.
Since starting this position at UM, what has surprised you the most?
The research world is paced so much differently compared to the hospital world. There is a lot of time and preparation invested before you even begin the actual clinical study. In the hospital, you are dealing with each task as it comes up and in the moment.
In your profession, what type of continuing education do you need to participate in, so you can stay current in the ever-changing world of research and healthcare?
All specialties of nursing have optional certifications. I am a certified pediatric nurse. I sat for an exam initially and now take 15 continuing education credits per year to maintain my certification and my MT state nursing license generally. In the next year and as part of my new career path, I plan to take the Association of Clinical Research Professionals Exam.
When you’re not doing field work, researching, or attending meetings what’s your favorite activity/hobby?
- Hanging out and hiking with my dog
- Travelling, skiing and hanging out with my husband
- Floating the river with my pals
- Spending time with family.