Karen Farchaus Stein, PhD, RN, FAAN
2012 Award for Excellence in Research

Karen Farchaus Stein, PhD, RN, FAAN is widely known as a top researcher in the nursing field. Her findings have been published in peer-reviewed nursing and interdisciplinary journals and presented at major conferences. Her recognitions are many, from being elected as a member to the Eating Disorder Research Society to receiving the University of Connecticut Marlene Kramer Distinguished Alumni Award for Research in Nursing to now receiving the APNA Award for Excellence in Research. In 2011, she joined the University Of Rochester School Of Nursing as the Brody Endowed Professor.

Stein’s expertise lies in the idea of “self structure”, which she has applied to various disorders. “In the years that I was practicing there was a very strong focus on the self and the self concept as the source of psychopathology or mental disorders ” she says. “Those years of practicing in a theoretical framework really set the direction for my research and whole career.” She integrated object relations theory about the self structure into her research and began to document it. “I began looking for a way to measure the self-concept,” she remembers. “The theorists talked a lot about the self concept and its role in disorders, but it wasn’t defined very well and it wasn’t measured.” Her research initially focused on eating disorders and ultimately culminated in a clinical trial of a nursing therapy that focused building new positive structures about the self, referred to as positive self-schemas, as a way of helping women with diagnosed eating disorders. This model has since been expanded, through further research, to additional risk behaviors in Latinas, war-related trauma, and substance use, for example.

Since 2006, Stein has also served as Editor of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, leading the transition of the journal from a relatively new and burgeoning publication into today’s high quality scholarly periodical read by nurses and researchers across the spectrum. A primary goal of hers has been to provide a venue in which the diverse expertise of psychiatric nurses can be showcased, shared, and assimilated in order to broaden the platform of evidence-based knowledge that supports our practice. 

In her role as editor she often finds herself mentoring nurses as they translate their research into writing. “People ask me a lot as editor about writing,” she says.  “Writing reflects thinking and good writing reflects disciplined thinking. It really requires training or mentoring.”  She continues, “If your goal is to write something, it’s really important to identify a mentor who has published a lot and understands how to help you conceptualize the issues you are interested in.” She offers three additional pieces of advice for new nurse researchers:

  1. Have a post doc so that there is an opportunity to focus all of your energies on the development of your research program
  2. Always start your day with writing and don’t wait for free time to write. Writing has to be a priority and be part of your daily routine. My mentor, Professor Hazel Marcus always said that “there should never be a day that you are not writing a manuscript.”
  3. You need to follow your passions. One spends an awful lot of on his/her program of research, so make sure that it’s something that you are passionate about!