Nursing has been on Carolyn Sabo’s mind as far back as the sixth grade.
For a standard school report on what a nurse does, a precocious Sabo came back with a 13-page research paper, going into great detail about enrollment requirements, how to arrange a patient’s food tray, and how to taste the food to make sure it was edible.
More than 40 years later, her career spanned multiple roles in nursing and health education. Now she's getting ready for a new role: grandmother and world traveler.
The UNLV School of Nursing professor emerita retires at the end of June. To track Sabo’s career at UNLV is to also track the early years of the school, and how it became what it is today.
In 1984, Sabo came to Las Vegas from the University of Utah to help grow UNLV’s new master’s of nursing program. At the time, nursing was just a department under the umbrella of the College of Health Sciences, along with radiological and clinical lab sciences (Nursing would become its own school in 2003).
Sabo served as the coordinator for nursing’s graduate program from 1990 to 1995, but she also served as head of both physical therapy and radiological sciences at the same time. In 1995, she took over as interim dean of health sciences.
“I stayed up late learning a lot of things because I really didn't know a lot about the other departments in the college,” Sabo said. “I spent a lot of time making sure I understood the faculty, the curriculum and the students in those other departments. That was probably the hardest part.”
Sabo’s administrative experience culminated in helping the school secure its doctor of nursing practice program.
Originally, the program was shared with UNR, But in 2015, Sabo and Reno's nursing dean Patsy Ruchala convinced the Nevada Board of Regents to split up the program.
“I had a much broader perspective of what the regents would be looking for when they ask questions and how to respond,” Sabo said. “I also had a good understanding of putting together our curriculum, how it had to come together with the steps we had to take for approval. I just knew the system.”
She returned to teaching in 2003 and led her last class in spring 2019, but stayed on as director of strategic initiatives, working closely with nursing Dean Angela Amar on enhancing leadership opportunities within the Southern Nevada community.
“I knew I was still working and yet not interacting with the students in the way that I had been for over 40 years,” she said. “I was looking forward to it, but it was also like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is real. I'm really not scheduled to teach anything else.’”
A career that went for 37 years at UNLV may have come as a surprise even to Sabo, who thought she’d move on after the first 5 to 10 years.
“I never did because the opportunities at UNLV continued to be there, to try new things, to be challenged in different ways, to interact with students in a variety of ways,” she said.