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Hello, my name is … Terry Buxton

The new Nursing Department chair shares what drew her to the profession and how she hopes to expand MSU Denver’s program.

By Lindsey Coulter

August 22, 2018

Theresa BuxtonTheresa “Terry” Buxton, Ph.D., RN, CNE, recently joined Metropolitan State University of Denver as chair of the Nursing Department after serving as president of the Colorado Nurses Association and as an associate professor at Regis University. Similar to many MSU Denver students, however, Buxton’s professional path didn’t exactly follow a straight line. She talked with the Early Bird about her passion for nursing and education, and how a career shift ultimately led her back to the classroom and her vocation.

What first drew you to nursing?

I would have to attribute it to my father. We were living in Illinois, and my father found a school in Texas that had in-state tuition for out-of-state students — if you went into the nursing program. Since I had four other siblings, he told me I had an obligation to see what it was like; if I didn’t like it after I completed the prerequisites, I could change majors.

I ended up falling in love with nursing. I love the variety and broadness in that there are so many different ways that you can practice. Over the years, I’ve worked as an occupational-health nurse; I’ve worked in emergency departments and in nurse case management. I worked for years as a nurse educator. I keep reinventing myself as new roles are being created in health care because it’s such a dynamic field.

Was a leadership position always your goal?

I’ve been working toward this position. I started out teaching in a community college as a clinical instructor and then went back to earn my master’s degrees in leadership studies and nursing education from Gonzaga University. That was when I started working in a university as a clinical instructor. When I got my Ph.D., I became a full-time faculty member teaching a number of nursing courses at Washington State University and Spokane Community College. In 2010, I moved to Denver and joined the Regis University nursing faculty.

Were you new to Denver?

I lived in Denver between 1978 and 1982 in an area that wasn’t even on the map then: the DTC (Denver Technological Center). Centennial didn’t even exist. It was really interesting to come back to see the changes. When I left, Denver was in a growth phase, but (it was surprising) coming back to see how much more of the Front Range had been filled up by the Denver metro area.

What attracted you to MSU Denver?

That’s easy: The mission, the vision and the goals of the University drew me here. I believe in serving our students — especially underserved and vulnerable students. We need to provide every resource we can to help them be successful.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

Two years ago, I was the president of the Colorado Nurses Association, and when you’re advocating for 60,000 nurses in terms of nursing practice and public health-care policy, you learn a lot of really good leadership skills. I’m a servant-leader. I’m here to advocate for the faculty and staff. I need to be as loud as I can in supporting them because they work hard and do amazing things for our students.

What are your goals for the MSU Denver Nursing Department?

The goal is to be collaborative and to move our nursing program into the 21st century and beyond.

Nursing programs are some of the most expensive programs on college campuses. They are very resource-dependent because they develop highly skilled, highly knowledgeable, competent and professional nurses. In order to do that, they need (modern equipment and technology). I want to integrate this technology interdepartmentally. There are other MSU Denver departments we can work with that can use simulation labs or electronic health records. There are all kinds of partnerships that can benefit students.

Is there anything your new colleagues might be surprised to learn about you?

I used to be a chocolatier. It took me 25 years from the time I earned my bachelor’s degree to the time I earned my master’s degree and Ph.D. In that interim, I opened a chocolate company that manufactured and wholesaled chocolates. It was so much fun, but when my business partner decided to move, it was time for me to explore another career path.

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