Fairfield University nursing professor Kathleen Wheeler wins American Psychiatric Nurses Association award for Excellence in Education


The American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) has presented its 2004 Excellence in Education award to Kathleen Wheeler, Ph.D., A.P.R.N., professor of nursing at Fairfield University.

The association, the major professional organization for psychiatric nursing in the United States, presented the award to Dr. Wheeler at its annual conference in Phoenix, Ariz. According to the APNA, the award is made each year to a nurse who demonstrates: "contributions to the education of nurses through innovative approaches in disseminating new knowledge in the field of psychiatric-mental health nursing, collaboration with other disciplines, and positive mentoring to peers and new nurses."

"It is a great honor to receive this award," said Dr. Wheeler, a resident of Westport. "I never dreamed of how rewarding my career would be as a psychiatric nurse and educator. Rewarding not just because of a recognition like this but rewarding on a personal, day-to-day basis working with patients, with students, being present and making a difference in a very immediate way through relationship with another person."

Dr. Wheeler joined Fairfield University in 1992 and developed the University's Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program in 1994, making it the only one of its kind in the state at the time. The program provides registered nurses with a master's degree and prepares them to apply for state licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.

Dr. Wheeler has served on a number of APNA committees and last year co-chaired The National Panel sponsored by the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties that worked to create universal competencies and guidelines for schools offering psychiatric nurse practitioner programs. Those guidelines will be used by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education to accredit the schools, and have been endorsed by 13 major nursing organizations in the United States. "Prior to the competencies psychiatric nursing education was kind of fragmenting with many different curricula for graduate psychiatric nursing education," Dr. Wheeler said. "By doing this we got buy-in from all of the major stakeholders in psychiatric nursing which we believe will help to unify and strengthen the specialty."

Dr. Wheeler earned her B.S. in nursing from the Cornell University-New York Hospital School of Nursing, which this year honored her with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. Dr. Wheeler holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in nursing from New York University. In addition to making numerous academic presentations in her field, she has published more than 30 articles, edited a book on critical pathways and received numerous research and program grants.

In addition to her work at Fairfield University, she maintains a part-time private psychiatric nursing practice, and is an ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) certified clinical specialist in adult psychiatric mental health nursing. She holds certificates in psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, hypnosis and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Dr. Wheeler is "an exceptional educator and researcher," said Anne Manton, Ph.D., APRN, BC, FAAN, and former associate professor and acting dean of nursing at Fairfield University. "As one who has spent most of my nursing career in the specialty of emergency nursing, I was struck by Dr. Wheeler's knowledge and passion for the care of the psychiatric patient," Dr. Manton wrote of her colleague. "It was through her example and with her encouragement that I pursued a career path as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 20, 2004

Vol. 37, No. 82