Lead Sacramento schools nurse cherishes her chance to ‘make a difference’

Terri Fox, Credential ’04 (Health Services) is blunt about her career path. For most young women entering the workforce in the 1950s and early 1960s, options were limited: “Your choices were teacher, nurse, or secretary.”

So she went into nursing, earning her associate’s degree in 1979 and building more and more on that foundation to the present. She is not only a registered nurse practitioner with Sutter Health but also the lead nurse for the Sacramento City Unified School District, where she says she enjoys seeing the effect of her work daily.

“I feel like I can make a difference in the lives of kids that might be underserved,” Fox says. That could mean making a doctor’s appointment for a family with limited resources, or buying them a bus ticket. We find out whatever the barrier is and we try and help with it.”

Lately, much of her time has been spent responding to the potential outbreak of norovirus in the district as well as nearby Yolo County school districts (she was quoted in a recent KCRA story about the issue). She has been working closely with the city and county health offices to draw up cleaning and hand washing procedures and ensure that parents get important prevention information.

“We have 44,000 students, so it’s like this little microcosm of a city of people under 21,” Fox says.

Building on her associate’s degree and her early career as a registered nurse in Redwood City, she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from CSU Dominguez Hills in 1991 and her master’s degree in nursing from UC San Francisco in 1996. She came to Sacramento State for her post-master’s school nurse credential, which she earned in 2003, then returned to campus in 2008 and 2009 as a lecturer and clinical instructor in the School of Nursing.

“I felt really lucky (at Sac State) to be around such experienced school nurses as my professors,” Fox says. To be in the program, she adds, you had to already be employed as a school nurse. “It really helped to be working while I was going through that program because it helped me know the questions I had and that I should ask in class.”

Prior to her current position, Fox has worked as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, and lactation consultant in Santa Clara, San Mateo and South San Francisco. She also spent nine years as a family nurse practitioner with the Shingle Springs Tribal Health Clinic.

The School of Nursing is one of the strongest at Sacramento State, graduating more than 200 skilled nurses annually, and those who take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s licensure examination average a 95-98 percent pass rate.

Each semester, 40 bachelor of science in nursing students are placed in Sacramento public schools as part of the program’s community health and mental health clinical rotations, helping in a variety of capacities from teaching nutrition, to supporting immunization efforts, to conducting mental health assessments and counseling. These clinical experiences expose students to school nursing as a career option – many have gone on to serve in schools – and helps to fill a critical shortage of nurses in public health settings, says Samantha Blackburn, an assistant professor of nursing and school nurse program coordinator who works with Fox on partnership programs.

“Our partnership with Sacramento City Unified is essential for us to be able to teach students about the role of school nurses and to get them thinking about working as a school nurse in the future,” Blackburn says. “We encourage students to think about community-based nursing roles, and it’s hard for them to conceive of those roles if they don’t get clinical experience in them.”

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Author: Jonathan Morales

Writer and content producer at Sacramento State, writing about all things Made at Sac State.

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