Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer for Beloit Health System
In 1996, Sharon Cox was a stay-at-home mom and daycare provider. College wasn’t on her radar. She was 15 years out of high school and the thought of going back to school after so long was frightening.
It was that summer when she considered pursuing a career in nursing. Her brother and her father-in-law were both diagnosed with cancer within the same week. “Throughout that process, I ended up being one of my father-in-law’s caregivers,” she says. “His graciousness at the end of life and his ability to smile, and just knowing that I made a difference to him, is really what drove that desire for me.”
Cox decided to enroll in the nursing program at Blackhawk Technical College. “If [BTC] wouldn’t have been there I would never have done it,” she explains. “I wouldn’t have gone to a four-year college right out of high school because I was basically afraid to take that step. I come from a very large family where no one had formal education past high school.”
During her pursuit of an associate degree in Nursing, she was hired by Beloit Health System as a CNA. “When I came [to Beloit Health System] to do my clinicals, I loved it,” says Cox. “They are very aware of the needs of students and that allowed me to set my schedule where I could either be ‘per diem’ or I could work every other weekend, and that’s basically what I did.” That flexibility allowed her to stay in school full-time and also maintain work-family balance.
After Cox graduated, she became a Registered Nurse at Beloit Health System, and later advanced to serve in other leadership roles including Nursing Supervisor and Clinical Manager. In 2013 she was named Director of Oncology, where she led the development of the UW Health Beloit Cancer Center.
Throughout her career advancement, Cox has also made it a priority to further her education. She now holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Registered Nursing from the University of Phoenix. And last September, Cox graduated from Chamberlain College of Nursing, earning a Doctorate of Nursing Practice: Healthcare Systems Leadership. To Cox, the pursuit of education is never-ending. “Technology changes and everything in the world changes, and you can’t stay stagnant in your profession,” she explains. “For me, that’s one thing in my career that I’m very proud of.”
From right to left:WHA’s Matthew Stanford testifies with Dr. Jerry Halverson, CMO of Rogers Behavioral Health and Sharon Cox, CNO and ED Director of Beloit Health System on Assembly Bill 538, WHA-led emergency detention reform legislation.
Last spring, Cox was named Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer for Beloit Health System where she is responsible for eight directors, five managers and over 400 staff involved in direct patient care. “I’ve only been in this role since March so I’m learning every day,” says Cox. “But I would like to be able to continue to bring the level of nursing care here to an even higher level and advance our quality.”
Cox credits her technical education as the catalyst for her career success. “For me, Blackhawk Tech set me up so nicely to be successful in transitioning from school to my NCLEX testing and then to the floor.” She continues, “They were very practical in their approach. To be able to come out technically sound and be able to translate that into a profession I think is the greatest thing I was able to get from my technical college education.”
Twenty years after a fear of going back to school, Cox has found herself as a living example of where a technical education can lead. “I just can’t say enough about how technical college really needs to be understood better in communities,” she says. “Not every person is ready for the four-year process.”
She concludes, “The more we can get technical college out there in the world, and make sure everybody knows the great things they do for individuals, the better I think we will all be.”