Mercer earned a diploma from St. Margaret’s School of Nursing in Montgomery, Alabama. She earned an undergraduate degree in nursing with distinction from the University of New Mexico in 1962, followed by a master’s degree in maternal child nursing from Emory University in 1964. For ten years, she worked as a staff nurse, head nurse and instructor. She was a faculty member at Emory University for five years until she left to pursue doctoral studies in maternity nursing at the University of Pittsburgh.
1988: Distinguished Research Lectureship Award, Western Society for Research in Nursing (inaugural award)
2003: Living Legend, American Academy of Nursing
2004: Distinguished Alumni Award, University of New Mexico College of Nursing