San Augustine nurse gets doctorate at the young age of 71

Updated: Mar. 31, 2017 at 6:08 PM CDT
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SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - From the age of nine, Janice Napier always wanted to help people. It was at that age that she helped her father resuscitate a man that was about to die. Since then she has never stopped.

Now, 71, Napier lives in Sabine County and works with CHI St.Luke's Memorial Clinics in San Augustine. In her small office, her faith is on display with prayers and crosses on the wall. There is a large square spot of emptiness in one corner. A diploma will soon hang there. The paper will signify her doctorate of nursing from Grand Canyon University.

Napier completed her Direct Practice Improvement project this year - a process similar to defending a dissertation - titled "Geriatric Polypharmacy: A Potentially Lethal Dilemma," using San Augustine Family Practice physician Dr. John Oglesbee as her content expert.

Napier has been in the medical field for more than 50 years. She was a graduate of the 2nd Angelina College LVN program in 1971, and went on to receive her bachelor's degree in nursing from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1981 while working full-time and raising her two young children.

"The opportunity came to get my master's degree when I was 50 years old," Napier said. "I graduated in December 1998 from UTMB through their dual master's and family nurse practitioner program. I went to work for Memorial in 1999 and have been employed as a family nurse practitioner at Memorial ever since."

Years later, Napier is not slowing down.

"I do not feel old," Napier said. "My mind is seeking. I am always trying to learn."

Napier said most of the course work was clinical-based so working on the computer was not as bad as it could have been.

"I'm a little bit technologically challenged," Napier said. "Once I knew what I needed to do, I was okay with it. "

She was okay enough to get a nearly perfect GPA, finishing with a 3.89.

For Napier, nursing is not a job but a vocation.

"You establish relationships, and people keep coming back," Napier said. "I don't find in my Bible where there is a retirement age. As long as we are physically and mentally capable, I expect to do something with the gifts that God has given me."

In the ever-changing health care field, Napier said she always finds something new to learn. She fought her own battle with breast cancer in 2001, including a double mastectomy and chemo, followed by reconstruction surgery in 2002. Through her personal, educational, and professional pursuits her father's gentle words of wisdom have guided her.

"My daddy always told me, 'Can't never did anything.' Cannot is negative and it will end everything right there. You can do it. It may take longer if you're older, but if you learn it when you're older, you don't forget it," Napier said. "Medicine changes every day, and with those changes come new procedures and processes and new formulations of medicine. I enjoy learning, and I learn new things every day. I don't know everything, but that doesn't stop me from having this yearning to know everything I can about my vocation."

With meeting the highest level she can, Napier is staying focused on her patients. She does have other items on her bucket list. One of those is to maybe one day do online teaching to younger nurses. She does not like to say she is old or make a big deal out of what she has done, but if you ask her what someone can learn from her experience, she will give a simple answer.

"If I can do it, a rural-raised country girl, then they can do it," Napier said.

CHI St.Luke's Health memorial contributed to this article

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