It’s a family affair. With a mother and two aunts experiencing successful careers in nursing, this segment of the health care industry has seemingly always been a part of Sharon Taylor’s heritage. Although she initially wasn’t sure which clinical or research specialty to pursue, particularly in her youth, Taylor firmly believes she was always destined to be a part of the profession.
After graduating from the University of Iowa College of Nursing, Taylor (BSN ′67) worked for two years as a staff nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics while her husband finished law school. After public health stints in Maryland and New Jersey, she taught at Copley School of Nursing in Aurora, Ill, before moving back to Iowa where she helped establish the Associate Degree in Nursing program at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City.
“My UI degree has served me so well in many capacities throughout my adult life,” said Taylor. “The nursing classes gave me a strong education on which to base my career. I really appreciated the independence allowed in our senior nursing clinicals. It really prepared me for the real world when I got my first job after graduation.”
For the last 43 years, Taylor has been employed by Burgess Health Center, a critical access hospital in Onawa, Iowa. She currently serves as the health center’s director of risk management and accreditation services where she is charged with the responsibilities of an infection preventionist, compliance officer, privacy officer, and risk manager. Serving as director has been a very rewarding experience, but it’s not necessarily what Taylor saw herself doing back when she graduated from the College of Nursing.
“If you had told me 40 years ago that I would become certified in four areas of health care and work in a position that demands continuously updated, intimate knowledge of those areas, I would have laughed at the absurdity of the idea,” said Taylor. “Here I am, 49 years after I graduated from the UI, living in rural Iowa, still working … loving what I do, and always grateful to the university for the great educational start that it gave me.”
As director, Taylor is responsible for many patient safety initiatives and working with nursing and other clinical departments, as well as compliance, privacy and accreditation across all areas of the center. She stays clinically active in her role as infection preventionist. Taylor also serves as an adjunct faculty member for Western Iowa Tech Community College and teaches two courses at West Monona High School’s “College Now” program.
As for current or future nursing students, Taylor advises that the drive to keep learning is key. “I always encourage future nursing students to get their BSN and to not stop there. I believe that continuing education is so important in understanding and flourishing in health care today.”