“It’s cliché,” explains Laura Willis, DNP, APRN-CNP, CMSRN. “All my life I knew I wanted to be a mommy, a nurse or a teacher.”
Born into a family full of teachers, Laura followed that path and spent her first year of college in an education track. During that year, she also worked as a caregiver to quadriplegics. The experience made her more interested in nursing and was the “push” she needed to follow this calling.
Now a Doctor of Nursing, Laura is all three of the things she wanted to be when she was a child: a nurse, a teacher and a mom.
“I’ve gotten to do everything my little girl heart ever desired!”
After changing her major from teaching, Laura went to school for her licensed practical nurse (LPN) degree, and then continued her education to get her registered nurse (RN) degree. There was a slight pause in her formal education when she became a mother. However, after her two sons were born, Laura found time to go back and get her Bachelor of Science in nursing degree.
“Jokingly I said to one of my professors, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like you.’ Two days after graduation, I got a call to teach,” Laura recalls.
This new role meant she needed to begin her master’s degree, so Laura started a program and ultimately received her Master’s in Nursing Education. During the 10 years she spent teaching, Laura had the opportunity to go to Central and South America on mission trips.
“I kept thinking that if I were a nurse practitioner, I would be more helpful. I became a nurse practitioner, truly with the intention to use those skills on mission trips.”
In 2015, when she joined Mercy Health, Laura transitioned from a teaching role to becoming a full-time nurse practitioner. Laura has been with our ministry for almost five years. During this time, she has completed her Doctor of Nursing practice degree.
Recently, Laura moved into an administrative role as the Director of Advanced Practice and Continuum Care for our ministry. However, she still sees patients one day a week at Urbana Family Medicine and Pediatrics.
“I can’t tell people how to be a good provider, if I’m not one myself,” she says.
Laura’s advice to someone considering nursing or advanced practice is to never stop learning.
“Medicine always changes. Nursing always changes. If it’s not formal education, go to a conference or read a journal. Education is vital to what we do.”
She also adds, “if you are looking into becoming a NP or PA, choose a good, accredited program. If you know where you want to do clinical practice, make sure they are affiliated with your school. It’s important to investigate all the pieces before you pick a program.”
When Laura has free time, her favorite thing to do is to grab a pair of binoculars and look at birds. It’s something she does together with her husband.
“It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, and we get our exercise,” she shares.
Laura also loves gardening and painting
“All of these activities force me to stop and only focus on what’s in the moment. It takes me away from the other flurry of life.”
Read more stories that celebrate our amazing Mercy Health nurses during National Nurses Week.
Also, learn about the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.