Leading the Way: One Nurse's Journey to His DNP

With a projected graduation date of spring or summer 2017, Troy Lawrence, BSN, RN, is coming into the home stretch of completing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Despite the demanding schedule of weekly classes, clinical rotation and doing intake for UW Home Health, where he’s practiced for more than six years, Lawrence has even managed to squeeze in a few extras. He chaired the UW Health Nursing Research Council, served on an interdisciplinary Employee Advisory Council, and currently sits on the Center for Aging Research and Education’s steering committee and the Geriatric Interest Group, a School of Nursing student organization.


"When I'm done, I will be a nurse practitioner," he says. "It would certainly be acceptable to call me Dr. Lawrence, but I'm still a nurse. I'll still use that approach to patient care, a holistic understanding of who you are."Life at home is just as full. His wife, Clare, is also a nurse and together they have two young boys, both of whom were born during Lawrence’s DNP journey. “Some days I can’t get it all done,” Lawrence says, admitting that he feels the stress of a schedule that is often busier than he would like. But he is quick to credit his wife for adapting to make his education possible, and also marvels at the support he’s had from his manager, Sandy Ligon, MSN, RN.


“She’s done a lot of things for me that she didn’t have to,” Lawrence says, noting that she never denied any request he made in order to keep everything in balance. “I don’t know where the faith comes from, but…I hope I don’t let her down.”


Ligon says Lawrence’s commitment to the practice of nursing along with his enthusiasm for learning were evident the moment she met him. “Troy really cares about nursing and is fully dedicated to the profession,” she states.


And she says because UW Health is such a strong proponent of lifelong learning and higher education, all nurses interested in career development and advancement should definitely explore it. “UW Health absolutely supports and encourages clinicians to pursue these opportunities,” states Ligon.


Lawrence sees his degree as a critical step forward, considering that the UW-Madison DNP Program prepares nurses for careers as both leaders and clinicians. This will enable him to practice as a primary care provider who can diagnose illness, prescribe medications and manage chronic disease.


Pam McGranahan, DNP program director, says that along with preparing nurses for advanced clinical practice, the program also emphasizes clinical leadership, scholarship, and how to use research findings to improve practice. This prepares nurse practitioners to promote change within the health care system. “As nurses we bear witness, and we can see when and where the system fails our patients. The DNP degree helps nurses to be even more effective in improving practice and the processes that affect health care quality and patient safety,” McGranahan says. “The voice of the nurse is important and we need to be at the table. The DNP is a great way to get there.”


Lawrence needed no convincing. “If you want to be a nurse practitioner, get a doctorate,” Lawrence says. He firmly believes the doctorate credential will afford him greater parity among other providers as well as the flexibility to pursue administrative positions later in his career.


“When I’m done, I will be a nurse practitioner,” he says. “It would certainly be acceptable to call me Dr. Lawrence, but I’m still a nurse. I’ll still use that approach to patient care, a holistic understanding of who you are.”