Nancy Cox is a new pediatric nurse practitioner at the Jefferson County Health Center.
Cox landed in Fairfield three months ago after spending a few decades as an Army nurse that forced her to move throughout the country. She visited town for the first time in December for an interview. Mesmerized by the beautifully illuminated town square, she was sold on Fairfield.
She and her husband moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, joined by their son and his family. Her husband suffered a stroke almost three years ago, and he became even more sensitive to the long, cold and dark Alaskan winters. He told his wife it was time for a change.
?August in Alaska is wet, cold and damp. The leaves are already falling off the trees,? Cox said. ?By Christmas, it?s dark for almost 24 hours a day, and winter lasts for nine months.?
And don?t forget the snow! Cox said four feet of snow piled up on their roof one winter and they had to shovel it off so the roof wouldn?t cave in.
The couple considered relocating to Cox?s home state of Kansas, but no jobs were available. A headhunter knew Cox was looking for a job, and notified her of the opening in Fairfield. Once they arrived, Cox and her husband fell in love with the town.
One of the surprising benefits of living in Iowa over Alaska is the ability to visit neighboring towns. Fairbanks receives so much snow in the winter that roads out of the city are practically impassable.
?I think people here are a lot friendlier, too,? Cox said. ?You?ll come to a stop light, and someone will wave at you.?
Cox mentioned that one thing people don?t know about Alaska is it has a high crime rate. In fact, the financial news magazine 24/7 Wall Street ranked it the most dangerous state in America based on FBI crime statistics from 2016. Cox said she and her family feel safer in Iowa.
Cox was born and raised in Quinter, Kansas, a small town of 400 people in the northwest part of the state. It was so small it didn?t have a doctor. That didn?t bother Cox because she was terrified of doctors. All they did was give her shots for penicillin.
?Back then, everybody who had a fever got a shot of penicillin,? she said. ?On the way to the hospital, my dad would say, ?I?ll give you a quarter if you don?t cry.? To me, a quarter was a lot because you could buy a comic book for that.?
The hospital did have one saving grace: a treasure chest of toys for children. Jefferson County Health Center has one, too.
Cox spent her youth playing sports such as basketball and softball.
?I played a lot with my brother in the driveway, but he?d say, ?Get out of here!? because teenage boys didn?t want to play with their baby sister,? she said.
When the topic of conversation turned to her future career, Cox didn?t know what to do, but her grandmother did.
?My grandmother kept telling me I was going to be a nurse,? she said. ?She fled Russia when she was 14, escaping from a bad regime. She was so strong, and she loved kids.?
Upon graduating from high school, Cox attended Marymount College in Salina, Kansas. She spent her first two years studying biology, thinking seriously about becoming a marine biologist. But that?s when her parents told her, ?You need to pick a major. You?re going to be a nurse.?
?It took a little nudging for me to become a nurse, but once I got in it, I loved it,? Cox said. ?My parents wanted me to study something practical. My dad was a farmer and my mom went to a secretarial college. There were five of us kids, and our parents told us we were all going to college.?
Cox is happy she went into nursing and particularly pleased she found her way into pediatrics. She loves children and can think of nothing more rewarding than caring for their health.
?They never cease to amaze me every day,? she said.
Treating children has its unique challenges, too. Cox mentioned that kids often have trouble describing what?s wrong with them.
?Sometimes the parents get nervous, and they?re kind of patients, too, in a way,? she said.