Joy Harrison

Q&A: My journey towards achieving my Doctor of Nursing Practice

What prompted you to go back to school for your Doctor of Nursing Practice?

I’ve always enjoyed being in school and learning, which prompted me to return to school and advance my education. Being in school and earning good grades always made me feel a sense of accomplishment. Also, I went back to school because it made me feel like I was still achieving and progressing in my career.

How will this degree benefit you in your current role at Texas Children’s?

I have begun to take a more scholarly approach to my work in my current role as assistant director of Texas Children’s Pediatrics. As health care leaders, it is important to be innovative if we are to keep up the pace with the ever-changing health care system. Since earning my DNP, I look at things through a different set of lenses and I often go to the literature to seek knowledge and answers that are evidenced-based. My DNP degree will help me contribute to the organization in a very different way, with the goal of working at the top of my educational level in future roles.

How would you describe your DNP journey?

This journey was very challenging, yet also rewarding. I continued to work full time in my current role, while also taking a minimum of two classes per semester for eight consecutive semesters. The program was very rigorous and required students to be very disciplined and focused. There were days that I spent working later into the evenings in the office, especially when I was completing my fellowships and preceptorships. I would then leave the office to go home and work on school assignments late into the night. I spent the majority of my time completing school assignments on the weekends.

How challenging was juggling work, family and school? How did you make it work?

It was very challenging at times during the program to juggle life in general. My 90-year-old mother had three hospitalizations while I was enrolled in the program which invoked quite a bit of concern and anxiety during each hospital visit. The unwavering support of Texas Children’s Pediatrics leaders, my family, friends and colleagues helped me make things work between work, family and school. When I was at the hospital with my mother, my laptop was also there with me. If I went out of town on a leisure trip, my laptop was in tow. I found ways to work on assignments while also taking time to relax as much as I could. It took grit and perseverance for me to complete the program while also managing work and family.

Describe what it was like embarking on this journey with your Texas Children’s colleagues.

It was great having classmates who I’d either worked with, or reported to, during my time working at Texas Children’s. When I applied for the DNP program, I didn’t know of any other Texas Children’s nurses who’d also applied. It was such a pleasant surprise to find out that so many of us had applied and been accepted into the program. We were able to complete group projects and preceptorships together. It was awesome that we all were able to finish the program together. Like me, I believe that every student at some point, questioned why they had put themselves through the ordeal of completing a doctoral degree. Even when I thought I wanted to quit the program, my classmates, Jackie Ward and Sara Dean, encouraged me and offered their support. They truly demonstrated the spirit of “no man left behind”.

Describe the emotions on graduation day when you officially received your DNP.

I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. It still feels surreal. To know that I completed an academic program such as this one, with unforeseen challenges along the way, makes me feel happy! This program tested my resolve in many ways, but I got through it and I am overjoyed about that.

Texas Children’s offers many educational and professional development opportunities for nurses. How did Texas Children’s support you?

I am fortunate to work for an organization that has always supported my desire to further my education. Coincidentally, I started my employment at Texas Children’s as a graduate nurse with an Associate’s degree and obtained my registered nurse license six months later. During my tenure, I have been able to obtain my Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees through the system’s tuition reimbursement program. As discussions continue across this country about student loan debt, I feel truly blessed to have benefited from the tuition reimbursement program, which helped to offset the cost of my education.