For the Love of Nursing: Mom of 5 Clinches Doctoral Degree and Academic Honors While Working Fulltime in Healthcare

Dr. Oyinkolade is hooded by Dr. Brenda Marshall, professor of nursing and DNP coordinator

The Oyinkolade family

Dr. Sylvie Oyinkolade, DNP ’23, pursued her doctor of nursing practice degree at William Paterson University while working fulltime as a healthcare case manager, raising her children, and teaching a leadership seminar on campus as an adjunct professor.

The University’s motto is, after all, Will. Power.

“There were a lot of sleepless nights after coming back from work, and then my children’s soccer practices, games, extracurricular activities, and I would sometimes sit down after midnight, 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., to start my schoolwork,” Oyinkolade says.

The Iselin, New Jersey resident earned this year’s DNP Nursing Excellence Award at William Paterson. She was also the 2021 doctoral student recipient of the $10,000 Dr. Maureen Sullivan Foley Memorial Scholarship Award through the New Jersey League for Nursing.

Oyinkolade completed her degree requirements in December 2022 and proudly walked across William Paterson’s Commencement stage on May 18 while her husband and five children (ages 13—twins, 16, 21, and 23) cheered from the audience.

Days before, Oyinkolade presented her doctoral research project from WP, focused on childhood asthma management among families in low-income minority communities, at the New York Academy of Medicine. Her abstract was a top scorer from 33 submissions. She also presented that same research as a guest speaker for the Sigma Iota Alpha at Large Chapter annual research day and ABSN induction ceremony at Bloomfield College. 

The research topic is near and dear to Oyinkolade’s heart. Professionally, since 2009, she’s worked as a health care case manager for Rutgers University, ensuring that the healthcare needs of children in foster care under the Division of Child Protection and Permanency are met. She’s traveled all around the state for child visits and consults with medical and psychiatric teams in Trenton to navigate complicated issues of health and parental rights.   

“Ecstatic” about how her doctoral research project turned out, the positive response to it so far, and the positive effect it may have on children, Oyinkolade is savoring this sweet ending to a journey in higher education that started more than 20 years ago.

A Nigerian immigrant, Oyinkolade graduated with her associate degree from County College of Morris in 1998. She began working fulltime in nursing at Trinitas Regional Medical Center and later at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital before securing her first leadership position at an adult medical daycare center for veterans and then as the director of education at a rehabilitation center. She married, gave birth to her first three children, and went on to earn her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree from Felician University in 2008.

Her then-youngest daughter was only two years old. Still, Oyinkolade went straight into a master’s program at Kean University, determined to grow professionally in her beloved career as a nurse.

“I was halfway through the master’s program when I found out I was pregnant with twins. My options were: ‘Stop now and go back when I have five kids’ or ‘Continue with three kids,’” Oyinkolade recounts.

She continued.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I needed to go back for my doctorate; I felt like it was something that I had to do for myself,” Oyinkolade adds. She started at William Paterson in September 2020.

She promised her children that her doctoral studies would not interfere with her attention to their academics and athletics, and she kept her word. She even went to every home game and reasonably close college away game for her second son, who played soccer at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and has just begun an accelerated bachelor’s program in nursing.

“I’m just grateful all around,” Oyinkolade says. “The faculty at William Paterson has been nothing—nothing—but supportive. I mean every one of them,” she continues, recounting a long list of WP professors and mentors who she says were instrumental in her academic success, “especially DNP coordinator Dr. Brenda Marshall and my advisor Dr. Dula Pacquiao.”

“I called, and I emailed Dr. Pacquiao at all hours of the night, and she never gave me any sign that she had had enough of me,” Oyinkolade says with a laugh.

“I couldn’t have made a better decision than coming to William Paterson University.”