John D. Shier, RN, PhD

John Shier is a Registered Nurse and Doctor of Philosophy who entered the profession of nursing at the young age of sixty and after having two prior successful careers.

Prior to his nursing career and his work as "ThatGuyNurse," John was an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay for fourteen years. John also served eighteen years as the Executive Director of the Lake Michigan Area Agency on Aging as well as providing leadership as the Executive Director of the United Way of Brown County.

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John D. Shier RN, Ph.D.
2790 Elm Tree Hill
Apt. 330
Green Bay, WI 54313

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Special Kudos for John

From a presentation attendee named only as “Jim”:

“Dear Sir:

    My name is Jim, and you don’t know me from Adam, but I am writing to thank you for your presentation to my company in June of 2003.  After hearing your talk about our health, it started me to think about how I felt and if I should be doing anything to correct any problems I might be having.

    After you finished your talk, one of our front office bosses talked about his heart problems and what was done about it.  He explained the symptoms he was having and how he went to see his doctor only to find out he needed an angiogram and a stent put in to unblock an artery in his heart.

    All of this was important to me because the symptoms he was having were exactly the same symptoms I was having.  I left work that day and made an appointment with my doctor and found out that I too had arteries blocked.  One was blocked 90% and the other was blocked 95%.  I was sent to the hospital and underwent the procedure to put in two stents in my heart. 

    All of this might sound commonplace to you, but to me it may well have saved my life!  So this letter is to thank you for coming to talk to us and to tell you how much I appreciate what you do.  Keep up the great work and may God bless you!!!

Sincerely yours and with a strong heart,



From Vol. 5 •Issue 16 • Page 25 of the Advance Online Edition for Nurses:

Renaissance Man

John Shier makes nursing his third career

By Julie Young

Few people embark on a new career path in their 60s, especially after several successful stints in various occupations, but 72-year-old John Shier, PhD, RN, continually reinvents himself to follow his passions and help his patients.

Shier grew up in Madison, WI, and graduated in 1956 from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, with degrees in history and English. He then went on to serve 4 years in the Navy as an anti-submarine air intelligence officer before attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received his master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy.

“I began my adult life as a professor of philosophy. In 1965, my wife, Rosalie, and I moved to Green Bay where I was part of the team that began the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay,” he said.

The Real World

Though Shier loved teaching and stayed in the classroom until 1974, he had the opportunity to become the executive director of both the Lake Michigan Area Agency on Aging as well as the United Way of Brown County. But, in 1982, Shier lost his best friend to cancer at the age of 47. That death impacted him so profoundly he sought to help others by becoming a volunteer at a local hospice.

“For 10 years, I spent more and more time doing patient care as a hospice volunteer. Then, in 1992, I resigned and returned to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, to pursue my bachelor’s degree in nursing,” he said. “I had finished college again, turned 60 and entered what has turned out to be an amazing third career.”

Never one to let grass grow under his feet, Shier was not only a staff nurse with Unit Hospice, but also took a full-time position on the cardiac floor of Bellin Hospital, Green Bay, where he performed telephone triage and occupational health nursing, as well as cardiac care.

Inventive Programming

Though Shier enjoyed his time on the cardiac unit, it was in the hospice setting he found his niche. He realized many of his patients were victims of their own decision-making. The philosopher in Shier began examining what led these patients to a terminal illness and what could be done to educate them to live longer and healthier lives.

In 2000, Shier developed “To Live a Long Time and to Die Healthy,” a program that has been presented more than 1,600 times for more than 300 companies around the country. The program was designed to meet the needs of various entities, businesses and corporations, such as Consolidated Edison in New York, General Mills, Pacific Gas & Electric, and some trucking companies for which Shier recorded audiotapes to encourage drivers to stay safe on the road.

Shier also has worked with Daniel Koster, MD, medical director for Bellin Executive Health, to create programs that enable patients to have a more active role in their healthcare. From “executive physicals” that explain in more detail what is happening within the body, to boutique medicine in which a primary care physician is on retainer and at a patient’s disposal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Shier is committed to affording patients practical care without time limitations.

“This is medicine as it was practiced a half century ago, but with all the benefits of having access to modern medical technology. It is the only such program in the state of Wisconsin as far as we know,” Shier said.

“More than ever before, patients today need to partner with an informed, trusted physician to make the most of all the complex options for treatments and diagnosis. By preaching that message, John is truly a partner of medicine in the sense that he is not only working to promote good medicine for individuals, but advance the field in these challenging times,” Koster said.

Shier said this kind of medical care is still somewhat controversial in the U.S. and is generally not covered by private or government insurance. He stressed the benefit is in the lack of time constraints frequently placed on the patient and the physician, who often has to see 22-25 patients per day. Koster’s practice is limited to 200 clients, which allows the doctor/patient relationship to foster.

A Means to an End

Over the years, Shier has found the hospice and public forums to be much more comfortable for him rather than the cardiac floor, where a physician’s approval must be obtained before medication can be administered. For Shier, having the opportunity to manage a patient’s care and make decisions that directly affect the quality of life of not only the patient, but their family, allowed him to make a big difference in the lives of others.

“I think it is interesting to realize that, as recently as 60 years ago, there were no hospice organizations. In those days, the period of terminal morbidity tended to be very short,” he said, noting science could do little to intervene and the period of serious sickness, injury and dying occurred in a matter of a few days or a few weeks.

“Probably the most significant impact of modern medical science is now it takes months and even years to die. Hospice is a response to this situation and, until people learn the requirements of maintaining long-term health, hospice will continue to serve as a vital function.”

Despite the setting, Shier said he hasn’t been depressed working in hospice. He said there have been days when he cries a lot, but he believes nursing is, at its best, a service that not only heals, but can bring important meaning to the most critical times of life.

Unlike the days on the floor when Shier and his colleagues finished a shift with a sense of relief because they had survived, hospice care provided Shier with not only the opportunity to spend significant periods of time with his patients, but the ability to listen and learn from them as well.

Fulfilling Experiences

After 23 years working as a volunteer and nurse, Shier left hospice care 2 years ago to devote more time to the executive health program and public speaking.

“I have treasured both kinds of experience, but now most fully enjoy my role as a nurse in two programs whose intention is to help patients remain healthy rather than repair them when things have gone wrong,” Shier said. “My first professor at the College of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin, Sandra Underwood, PhD, RN, FAAN, told us on the first day of class the most important thing a nurse can do is teach. As long as I am a nurse, I will treasure that idea.”

“What John has done and what he is doing are so amazing,” Underwood said. “When you hear him speak, it is really something more than a motivational speech. He gets you to think about yourself and living life to its fullest.”

Underwood said Shier’s work often has exceeded his own expectations. With his background and knowledge, he comes from a unique place that helps him serve various populations, and he is always looking for new ways to contribute to others.

“I feel honored to have been part of his life and part of his education,” Underwood said. “He is really an amazing individual.”

If you’d like to contact Shier, you can reach him at 920-433-3486 or visit his Web site at

Julie Young is a frequent contributor to ADVANCE.