Marian Roman, PhD, PMHCNS-BC
2013 APNA Award for Innovation - Individual

In 2010 Marian Roman, PhD, PMHCNS-BC was contacted by a psychologist colleague to help the city of Knoxville find a new direction for its Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. At a brainstorming session on how to improve the program, Roman brought up what was a new term at the time: recovery. “At our session I proposed that we look at the recovery model in mental health and psych rehab, which I knew of from William Anthony’s writings,” she recalls. “We both knew that the chronically homeless population included a large number of traumatized and re-traumatized persons. Whether they had a DSM diagnosis or not, they had mental and emotional health issues.”

Roman worked with her colleague for over one year on the principles and design for a recovery based program to stop supporting homelessness and start supporting recovery. They submitted a grant proposal for the program. Although the proposal was not funded, her psychologist colleague persevered. The resulting Knox Area Rescue Ministries’ LaunchPoint program for homeless persons was based on three concepts: recovery-oriented, trauma informed, and person-centered. Outcomes show that three out of four graduates from LaunchPoint have not returned to homelessness.  Roman’s colleague says, “Dr. Roman demonstrated an uncanny ability to absorb information about the complexities of our homeless system and then respond with insightful conceptualizations about how service provision guided by recovery-oriented care would…best support individuals’ journeys out of homelessness and into a purpose-filled life.”  In tandem with the development of this program, Roman organized a recovery-oriented care APNA Chapter Conference in Knoxville, which further introduced the concept of recovery to the area’s care providers.

She is currently an Associate Professor at the University Of Tennessee School Of Nursing in Knoxville. When it comes to engaging her students, she says that she likes to “shake things up a bit”. The material should always “be exciting and linked to real, multi-faceted persons as examples,” she explains. “Ideally the material should just start the journey and the student will want to learn more!” Her ideas come from her experiences – “I always learn from previous exposure to all sorts of influences, and they often have been percolating in my subconscious.” She also emphasizes the value of experience in the students’ learning process: “The experience of the product makes the content stick,” she says. For one class, she had her RN-BSN students stage debates on the ethical issues of aging, such as whether or not the use of restraints were ever justified. “They groaned about the work involved, but the evaluations show they viewed it as among the best learning experiences,” she says.

Roman has been lucky enough to have the freedom to develop several innovative new courses. For example, she created a course for university honors students in any discipline called Aging on the Silver Screen. “I love teaching about aging as a sociocultural developmental process, not an illness model,” she says. Working with a Film Studies professor, she put together a curriculum which included a diverse list of films which all “depicted the continuity and change dynamic of aging”. For their final project, the students created their own videos showing their thoughts on how/where they might be at age fifty.

“I have been blessed in my exposure to excellent mentors, nurses, doctors, and psychologists, from whom I have always learned and been treated as peers,” says Roman. She has been fueled by an innate interest and curiosity throughout her career: “What is more interesting than behavior and the psyche?” It has been evident since she was a little girl, she says. “My dearest childhood friend says that I always was the little shrink…wondering why people spoke and acted a certain way, and what they meant by it!”