Ms. Sherrill J. Thayer


Class of 1971
Career Pathway: Health Sciences

Sherrill J. ThayerMs. Sherrill J. Thayer was nominated by her father, former CASD teacher Arthur Thayer.

In high school, Sherrill participated in band (playing flute and piccolo), honor society, debate, forensics and oratory. She took 2nd place at the state finals in the American Legion Oratory Contest.

Sherrill graduated from Lake Superior State College in 1974 with an associate's degree in nursing, which enabled her to work in a number of places, including Michigan, New York City, Massachusetts, Virginia, and, most recently, Wisconsin. She has worked in almost every area of nursing, from the basic floor nurse to charge nurse, to head nurse, to intensive care unit, cardiac care unit, emergency room, physician's office, college school nurse, supervisor of a 180-bed facility that was half sub-acute hospital and half long-term care, and most recently, as an adult nurse practitioner. Along the way, her educational levels and credentials changed along with her levels of responsibility.

Ms. Thayer first returned to college while working as a college nurse. Stimulated by the learning environment around her, she began taking classes and eventually chose a degree track at Bradford College in Bradford, Massachusetts. During this time, she worked for three years as the fiction editor for The Bradford Review, a literary magazine published by the college. In 1982, she graduated as salutatorian her class, with a bachelor's degree in creative arts and a major in fiction writing. She also won the Elizabeth Barrett Award for outstanding achievement in the area of creative writing for her short story, "Empty Houses." Her work has appeared in The Woods Runner, a literary magazine published by Lake Superior State College, and The Bradford Review; and a bound edition of her work remains in the Bradford College Library. She has also worked as an editor and has two books, How to Identify, Master and Conquer Change by Robert Ian and Babies with Bullets: Women Having Fun with Guns by Debbie Ferns.

As much as Ms. Thayer loved writing, nursing was her first love, and she decided to work toward a master's degree. In order to get into the program of her choice, she had to have a bachelor's degree in nursing first, so she once again returned to school. She graduated in 1991 as valedictorian of Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts, was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, the oldest and largest collegiate honor society dedicated to the recognition and promotion of academic excellence in all disciplines,and inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing. As soon as she finished her bachelor's degree in nursing, she began taking classes toward her master's degree.

For graduate school, she attended Simmons College, an all-women's college and a sister college to Harvard, and graduated in 1994 "with distinction" with a master's degree in primary health care nursing. After taking the adult nurse practitioner exam, she became a board-certified adult nurse practitioner. 

She was then hired by the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology (ENT) and Head and Neck Surgery. At the time, she was the second nurse practitioner to work for the medical school. There, Ms. Thayer established state-of-the-art collaborative practice relationships to serve as models for nursing and other students in the health science disciplines. She also developed the initial protocols and guidelines for management of specific problems still in use in her clinic and was responsible for keeping them updated. She also helped to pioneer the role of the nurse practitioner in the surgery clinics. After the success of her clinic, today there are more than 100 nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in all aspects of care at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

Because of her writing skills, she was appointed associate editor of The Head and Neck Connection, a biennial publication of the University of Wisconsin Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. She was responsible for the initial motivation for the development of the role of the acute care nurse practitioner who is trained to work solely in hospitals. Eventually, she was named senior nurse practitioner and had supervisory duties over all of the other nurse practitioners, physician assistants and registered nurses.

Ms. Thayer was active in the Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Nursing, Inc. from 1995 to 2007 and helped develop it to the point where Wisconsin was the largest state chapter. She has always been very active in education and lecturing and has traveled all over the country presenting the Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Review Course to nursing groups and has lectured on other topics related to ENT at both the state and national levels, in her clinic and for the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing.

Early in 2007, Ms. Thayer began writing a book entitled Practicing for Retirement: Your Life. Your Way. Right Now. In December 2007, she retired from the University of Wisconsin Medical School. She is currently working full time on her book, which is scheduled for publication in 2009.

When not writing, Ms. Thayer is an avid gardener and reader. She resides in rural Wisconsin with her husband Robert and their dog Sherbert.