EveryNurse.org is proud to feature Dina Cox, not only because she is an expert in her field- she is also a woman who embodies a rare and genuine brand of grit: the kind of grit which pressures greatness into excellence. Dina achieved her expert professional status in spite of personal challenges that would cause even the strongest of personalities to wilt. Follow her interview below, where she provides details about her journey, including how she was able to turn her own personal tragedy into an attribute that she would share with patients for years to come.
Awards & Achievements
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
Licensed Registered Nurse (RN)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a Nursing Administration focus (MBA)
Skilled in Nurse Management, Medical-Surgical, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ALCS)
Director of Inpatient Surgical and Specialty Services, Sparks Health Systems
Interview - Question & Answer
Dina, will you tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years?
I was born at Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1968. I grew up in Muldrow, Oklahoma. I spent my teenage years traveling with my mom and dad; he was a pipeliner. We settled down in Dayton, Texas and that is where I graduated from high school.
What made you want to become a nurse?
I have a best friend that I met when I was 7, her name was Dawn. She is the one that convinced me that I should become a nurse. She said it would be a good steady job, so at 23 years old with 3 small children, I found a nursing school and enrolled.
Was there a nurse in your life who inspired you?
The only nurse that I had ever known was my grandmother, so I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I graduated in December 1993, with my LVN and began working in Texas. In July of 1994, I moved back to Oklahoma because my grandmother was ill. After I moved back, my friend Dawn suggested I get a job at Sparks where she worked – so I applied and started working in the float pool.
Obviously, you returned to school; why?
After a couple of years, of watching my friend Dawn go back to school for her RN, I applied at a local college and began working on my RN. In May of 1998, I had my 4th child and graduated with my RN. I stayed at Sparks and took a staff nurse position on an inpatient surgery unit.
How did you like that job?
This was my favorite job. I worked my way up to becoming the charge nurse and after a couple of years my manager left, and I was asked to step in as the Unit Manager. I stayed in that role for 8 years and during that time my friend Dawn encouraged me to go back to school with her. So, I did. In December of 2010, we both graduated with our BSNs.
Sounds like Dawn was quite an inspiration! Did she play a part in you obtaining your MBA?
Yes! And she was! During the time we were in school for our BSNs, you guessed it, Dawn encouraged me to back to school with her… again. So, I did. In August of 2013, we both graduated with our MBAs.
That is great! What did you do with your newly acquired MBA?
Shortly after graduating, I applied for a Nursing Director position and I have been in that position for about 2 years now. I am so grateful that I choose nursing as a career. I can honestly say that every day for the past 21 years, I have loved going to my job. Sure, I have bad days, but being able to make an difference in a patient or an employee’s life every day is an awesome feeling.
What challenged you the most academically in your educational pursuits?
My MBA was very challenging for me because it was outside of what I knew. It was all about business and nothing about nursing.
Share an experience where you faced adversity. How did you respond to the situation?
There was a time when my son passed away from a motorcycle wreck, he was 19. I was sitting at home and I had been off work for over 4 weeks. I had decided that I didn’t want to take care of people anymore. My drive was gone because my life had changed so drastically. I told my manager that I didn’t think I was coming back and I didn’t think I wanted to be a nurse anymore. This was because I didn’t think I could feel compassion for anyone anymore. I was numb. She told me that I was a great nurse and reminded me of how much I loved to be a nurse and that I could use this awful experience in my nursing. She was right…I came back to work and several months later I had a patient that had just lost a child in a car wreck that she was in. I spent a lot of time listening and comforting this patient.
What characteristics do you think allow someone to thrive as a nurse?
They need to be caring, compassionate, trustworthy, patient, diligent; and of course, you have to have a sense of humor to survive the nursing world.
What gets you excited about your job and why?
Every day is a new learning day and a new challenge. I have been a nurse for 21 years and I still am learning new things. I love to learn, and I love making a difference in someone’s life whether it’s a patient or an employee.
What is an average day like as a Director of Nursing?
My activities vary from day to day. A day can be filled with meetings, reviewing finances, rounding on patients and employees; dealing with complaints and issues; code blues and rapid responses, as well as helping out in any way I can.
How did you pick your specialty?
I love medical, surgical patients. I never really wanted to specialize in any particular area, except for inpatient surgery, which is my favorite kind of nursing.
What developments in the nursing world have improved the quality of care?
Technological advances which have given us the ability to diagnose illnesses sooner, due to the new technology.
Please share one thing would you like to see changed in the nursing profession?
I would like to see more nurses. The number of nurses that the colleges turn out have decreased drastically over the years.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
My end goal is to become a Chief Nursing Officer. I have multiple mentors around me that have taught and encouraged me daily. I think this would be the ultimate in being able to make an impact on people’s lives. I want to be able to lead a hospital that employees love to work at.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
My advice would be to continue learning everything you can and gather tons of experiences, and never stop learning or advancing. Never allow anyone to bash your ideas or diminish your goals. Whether you are a patient care tech; an LPN/LVN or RN; if you want to move up and make a difference, just do it. I would have never thought I could be in the position I am in today. All it took was one person to encourage and believe in me that I could do it.
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