Fairfield University School of Nursing Professor Kathleen Wheeler honored for her considerable contributions to field of psychiatric nursing

Fairfield University School of Nursing Professor Kathleen Wheeler, Ph. D., A.P.R.N., of Westport, Conn., was honored by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) for her considerable contributions to the teaching and practice of psychiatric nursing. Dr. Wheeler, an advanced practice psychiatric nurse, received both the APNA Award for Media and an APNA Award for Excellence in Practice. The association noted: "Dr. Wheeler has demonstrated valuable leadership in projects that are highly significant to the future of psychiatric nursing."

Her achievements include co-chairing a national panel that developed the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Competencies, which set standards for psychiatric advanced practice graduate nursing programs. Those competencies have been endorsed by more than a dozen national nursing organizations. Dr. Wheeler recently wrote a textbook, "Psychotherapy for Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses" (Mosby Elsevier, 2008), the only psychotherapy textbook written for advanced practice psychiatric nurses. A how-to book containing practical techniques and interventions, it was named a 2008 American Journal of Nursing (AJN) Book of the Year for Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing. AJN noted that the book fills a void in literature written on the subject and "adds a unique nursing perspective to the art and science of psychotherapy." She also conducted a comprehensive national survey of how graduate psychiatric nursing programs teach psychotherapy.

Dr. Wheeler, who has taught at the School of Nursing since 1992, said, "I am so honored to be recognized by my peers with these awards. There is no higher reward than to be recognized by one's colleagues."

Dr. Wheeler developed Fairfield University's Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program in 1994, making it the only one of its kind in Connecticut at the time. She specializes in trauma with certifications as a clinical specialist in adult psychiatric nursing, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, hypnosis, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

She finds great fulfillment in her specialty, noting it is a profession ripe with change. "For faculty teaching psychiatric nursing, this is a very exciting time in that the confluence of recent neurophysiological research in infant development, attachment theory, and trauma lends support for the importance of the interpersonal relationship for health," Dr. Wheeler said. "This research provides a scientific foundation for what nurses have intuitively always known; that it is only in relationship with another that healing can occur. These awards illustrate the acceptance of these ideas because the framework for practice that I developed for my book is based on this neurophysiologic research yet embedded in a holistic healing paradigm."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 5, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 206

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