December Stroble learned to become a nursing leader at Sacramento State
July 24, 2020
December Stroble’s parents met while working in the emergency room at David Grant Hospital on Travis Air Force Base. December’s mother went on to work as a nurse and paramedic, and her father later worked in a nursing home.
It was only natural for Stroble ’06 (Nursing) to follow in their footsteps, not just into health care, but to the front line. Today, she is a registered nurse at Sutter Health, working out of the emergency room, specializing in pediatric emergencies and disaster management.
She’s one of hundreds of graduates from Sacramento State’s acclaimed School of Nursing, most of whom work in the Sacramento community, and among the multitudes of health care workers worldwide responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Sacramento State, Stroble learned the leadership skills necessary for her to do her job well, even amid a global health crisis.
“Leadership was encouraged by the faculty – to be an advocate, to be educated, to provide the best, safest care for your patient,” she said. “At Sac State I was able to practice those values as a student, and now I’m able to practice them as a nurse.”
A Sacramento native, Stroble says she was an inquisitive child. Her Jay taught her about the outdoors and survival skills, something that prepared her for eventual career.
She enrolled as a pre-med student at American River College intending to become a paramedic like her mother, Kathy Burns, who advised her to go instead into nursing. Her mother died shortly after that conversation, but six months later, Stroble was accepted into nursing school at Sac State, drawn by the ability to earn both a Nursing license and bachelor’s degree at the same time. She was not the first or last Hornet in her family: Her older brother graduated in the 1990s, and her younger brother followed in 2007.
At Sac State, Stroble was drawn to leadership opportunities. She served as president of the California Nursing Students Association, as an officer in Sac State’s CNSA chapter, and as western director of the National Student Nurses’ Association.
“It was something I felt called to do, and I really am glad I took those opportunities,” she said. “I was able to get leadership experiences I would have never had elsewhere.” Her classes also stressed leadership, as well as community health and involvement.
“One of the things that Sac State really instilled into us is being a part of the community and giving back to it,” Stroble said. “That’s what I appreciate most about my time at Sac State.”
Those opportunities prepared Stroble for life in the emergency room. She has worked since 2004 at Sutter Health, most recently based in the adult ER but also as a member of the core pediatric group, a smaller team that helps kids in the children’s ER. She teaches, among other topics, the Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC) for the Emergency Nurses Association, an international curriculum.
In addition to multiple licenses and certifications, Stroble earned an Executive Master of Professional Studies in Emergency and Disaster Management degree from Georgetown University in 2016.
“What I enjoy most about nursing is the critical thinking aspect of it,” she said. “It’s not just, I go and I do my job, I put an IV in, I give a medicine. The emergency department is different from other areas of the hospital.”
ER nurses, for example, analyze lab and test results and assess the effectiveness of medications given in treatment, she said. If change is needed, they work with the physician to find another option.
Teaching and training are also important to Stroble, who says lifelong education is built into nursing because health care is ever-changing. Never has that been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She again credits what she learned about leadership at Sacramento State for helping her navigate the crisis. Her faculty mentor, Professor of Nursing Denise Wall Parilo, said those qualities were evident in Stroble from the start of her time at Sacramento State.
“Leadership and advocacy are definitely something we encourage in our students. December is one of those people who isn’t afraid to take on a leadership role, but also she uses those skills to get what is needed for her patients,” Wall Parilo said. “If she doesn’t know how to do something, she can figure it out. She knows the resources to go to.”
Though the School of Nursing has been fortunate to have many students over the years take on leadership roles in state and national organizations, Wall Parilo said Stroble was among the first.
“She and the classes around her set the bar high and showed our students what could be done and how far they could go,” Wall Parilo said.
Stroble doesn’t slow down in her spare time. She has snorkeled across Icelandic tectonic plates and is an avid mountain climber, glacier climber and kayaker. She and her family operate a small farm in El Dorado County, a dream of hers since she was a child. And she has spoken out on political issues, once testifying at the state Capitol about workplace violence.
But she says her patients are why she comes back to the hospital every day. She enjoys getting to know them and their families, and hearing their stories.
“Most of our patients are very appreciative of the care that they receive, and it’s nice to be able to give to someone,” Stroble said. “And they give back that caring to us by saying, ‘Hey, thanks for taking care of me today,’ ”