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2022 APNA Award for Excellence in Education

David Foley, PhD, MSN, RN-BC, CNE, MPA

David Foley sees beyond the limitations of traditional PMH nursing educational methods – breaking down barriers to provide students a deeper educational experience. All the while he is strengthening therapeutic communication skills and working to overcome stereotypes, gender-bias, and stigma related to mental health.

Foley says, “When there’s a lack of the necessary tools, we need to step forward to create them ourselves.” In 2019, he published a guest editorial to call for needed transformations within PMH nursing education at the pre-licensure level – including the absence of a nursing skills lab component within PMH nursing education. Foley then tapped into more than twenty years of teaching experience in both clinical settings and didactic classrooms to build the tools he needed to ensure his Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) nursing students do not miss the opportunity to master critical skills.

Foley developed a series of case study simulations, videos, and interactive classroom activities to allow students to critically examine and practice evidence-based techniques. He built a collaboration between the CWRU School of Nursing and School of Theater to showcase effective nurse-patient relationships and culturally competent care for psychiatric patients. Acting students portray a variety of patients on video to allow PMH nursing students to correctly learn to document medical records. At his direction, the acting students also use improvisational methods to enable PMH nursing students to have meaningful dialogs and perform mental status evaluations within the supportive classroom environment.

The scenarios and training modules Foley created have been transformed into key teaching strategies published on the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) website so they may broadly benefit nursing students and nurses in practice nationally and internationally.

He continues to innovate – developing new scenarios for students, including some to support transgendered patients. His ground-breaking PMH nursing courses have been shared at the QSEN Institute’s International Forum, and the simulation called, “My Name is Miss Wertz”, was chosen by the Ohio Nurses Association as a national continuing education module on culturally competent care practices for transgendered patients.

According to Foley, “The nurse-patient relationship does not have an asterisk to exclude certain patient populations. We must always reach across the divide. As an educator, it’s very important to ensure student experiences are meaningful and relevant.”

Throughout his distinguished career, Foley has also worked to emphasize interdisciplinary collaboration and pioneer new mentoring practices to better disseminate knowledge and expertise. Foley led a team to strengthen care practices in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) long-term psychiatric care facilities. He further disseminated these new practices to a multi-state area and at national VA conferences.

Foley also enjoys focusing his efforts on building the PMH nursing pipeline, implementing a “Scrubs Club” at underserved middle schools funded by an Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) grant. This initiative achieved more than 3,000 interactions to inspire careers in nursing among young people. Meanwhile, to further support the success of newly-enrolled nursing students, Foley developed—and published—a new mentor/mentee program to better support and guide new students.

“Students show up and don’t know what to do, so faculty must be empowering agents to help guide and show sensitivity to students. Our program not only built strong mentor connections to last throughout a student’s career, the effort also increased the number of students now pursuing a career in PMH nursing.”

After earning his PhD Foley was involved in a near-fatal accident. He chronicled his experience as a patient in the emergency room’s trauma bay, inpatient trauma unit, and throughout outpatient therapy in his book entitled, Zero Days in Safety: One Nurse’s Journey into Trauma and Recovery. This experience provided an unparalleled opportunity for deep reflection on his role as an administrator and nurse-educator, validating both his chosen career path and his life’s mission to advance PMH nursing.

David says, “Remember, when one teaches two learn. I advise fellow faculty to maintain their sense of openness to their students. We are all human. They bring their culture, innovation, new ideas, and experiences. Learning is always a symbiotic process.”