Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing Dean Lois Salmeron has spent her 55 years as an RN not only caring for patients, but also working to help educate nurses who will carry the torch into the future.

Salmeron career a combination of nursing and education

by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer

Oklahoma City University Dean of the Kramer School of Nursing Lois Salmeron has ascended the heights during her life – as a nurse, an educator, a wife and mother and as a professional who successfully navigated a journey few women of her generation did.
“I have always wanted to be a nurse – my father encouraged me to go into medicine,” Salmeron said. “However, in those days to combine being married and having a family for women was a rarity.”
Despite that fact, the young woman decided to follow her instincts – Salmeron first attending nursing school at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. Graduating in 1962, she and her husband married while she was a nursing student and he was completing his residency in anesthesiology.
With a diploma from St. Francis that allowed Salmeron to pass the state board and become a registered nurse, her first staff position was in the maternity acute care unit of the hospital where she attended nursing school. But, while she had a good start at the Wichita facility, it was only the start.
Her path veered in a different direction when Salmeron’s husband was offered a staff position at then-Baptist Hospital; the couple and their two children moved to Oklahoma City. It was after that move that Salmeron’s career really began to blossom.
She began her Oklahoma healthcare career as a staff nurse in Deaconess Hospital’s labor-delivery and mother-baby units – and, later, as nurse educator for Deaconess personnel hospital-wide.
That position showed yet another facet of nursing that would become a passion – education. That would be very important in the late 1960s when Mercy Hospital approached Oklahoma State University-OKC with a proposal.
It was a time when, like with Salmeron’s own experience, hospitals were the source of nurse education. Mercy’s idea to transfer its program to OSU-OKC helped spur a major change in the way nurses would obtain their degrees, and Lois Salmeron would be on the forefront of that movement.
“I was one of the first three faculty to begin that program,” she said. It was a program she would remain with for more than three decades, the last nine of her 31 years at OKC-OSU as division head of health services. While there, Salmeron also in the late 1980s spearheaded a nursing distance learning system for the Oklahoma panhandle area and based at OSU-OKC.
The now established nursing educator never stopped learning herself. Salmeron earned bachelor’s and masters of science degrees from University of Oklahoma; she obtained a master’s of arts in teaching at Oklahoma City University and Oklahoma State University Doctorate of Education with adult education focus.
In 2001, Salmeron was at a turning point, however. She retired from OSU-OKC, but the ongoing nursing shortage convinced her to remain in the field. Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing had room to grow – and a place for Salmeron to help it do just that. For four years, she served as an adjunct professor, but that was far from the extent of her contribution to OCU.
“As KSN was growing in numbers of nursing students, I was asked to apply for the assistant dean position – I was chosen for that position in July 2005,” Salmeron said. “I advanced to be the associate dean in two years.”
When the dean took a semester off in the spring of 2013, Salmeron was named senior associate dean in charge. In June, when longtime Dean Marvel Williamson retired from the college, Salmeron was appointed interim dean.
Salmeron became Kramer School of Nursing Dean in January 2014, becoming responsible for the entire nursing department – “budget, enrollment, recruitment of students and faculty, hiring staff and faculty, working with the other schools on campus, service to the university and the community, fund raising for the department, strategic planning, awareness of state and national guidelines that must be followed for approval and national accreditation, continuing education for faculty and staff, maintaining a positive culture for faculty, staff and students to succeed,” Salmeron said. “These are just some of the responsibilities of the dean.”
While her position meant a full spectrum of responsibilities, it didn’t diminish the dean’s love of nursing and teaching – something she said she didn’t want to completely relinquish. She therefore chose to retain a part of what brought her to Oklahoma City University in the first place.
“I teach one PhD course every Fall semester called Nursing Education Administration,” the dean said. “It is rewarding and challenging to work with these adult students sharing some of the components of what is required to lead a nursing education program.”
Salmeron’s wide-ranging experience has served her – and the college – well. Last year, OCU began a distance learning program in Duncan that harkened back to her 1980s panhandle experience.
Like much of Salmeron’s career, the Duncan program is just one of several milestones of the past that have inspired achievements in the present. And, Salmeron herself has been a source of inspiration for thousands of students who know how much she has achieved in a world very different from today’s nursing opportunities – and her work has spurred countless awards, including the Distinguished Professional Service Award from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, a nonprofit aimed at promoting the health of women and newborns.
Salmeron was also the first nurse to ever receive the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Graham White Award and was in 2003 inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.
Salmeron has achieved as much in her personal life as she has in her profession – she and her husband have been married for 57 years and live in the home they built and moved into in 1968. The couple has three grown children who understood their mother’s education advocacy – a son and daughter are PhDs, while a second son earned his MBA and has his own financial management company. His siblings are a researcher in plant molecular biology and a clinical psychologist in private practice.
“My husband grows orchids, has his own greenhouse, is retired, but supports my passion of educating the next generation of nurses,” Salmeron said.
At 77, while many people would be looking to slow down or take an easier path, those around her said Salmeron shows no sign of doing that. Juggling a myriad of responsibilities at work, the dean also gives back to the community – she volunteers on several state and national nursing committees and serves on several boards, including Mercy, Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society; she is also an Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing peer reviewer.
Salmeron’s hands on approach shines through in all of her endeavors – her work, charitable and volunteer endeavors and her personal life – and it’s something illustrated by her view of the school and its culture, what she called the Kramer Way.
“My priority at KSN is to create the positive culture in which the faculty and staff can guide the nursing students to be successful and ready for the professional responsibilities that they will have,” Salmeron said. “The Kramer Way means we all try to live a life that values caring, kindness and respect.”