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2023 APNA Award for Excellence in Practice – APRN


Nominated by Kathy Gaffney

Joy Lauerer shares, “All PMH nurses come to our profession with their own personal challenges. I’m at a place in my life now where I can share it was my own early experiences that drove my devotion to PMH nursing and has focused my work on helping other children and families have a better experience.”

As a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (PMH-CNS), Joy has immersed herself in a wide variety of settings in an effort to shape early behavior through connection and help children emerge as healthy people ready to face the world.

Joy’s 20 years in successful private practice – treating children from preschool age up to young adults – helped drive her recruitment to an associate professor position at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing.

In this role, Joy instructs students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, promoting trauma informed care, teaching about the impact of trauma and chronic stress on the nervous system, and exploring how resiliency can be increased. Joy also developed and leads the MUSC PMH Nurse Practitioner program – from which more than 100 students have graduated and entered the workforce – and is lead faculty for the PMH nursing program at MUSC.

Joy is credited with taking the least popular undergraduate nursing course at MUSC and making it the most popular among students. A passionate student mentor and preceptor, Joy has been chosen by MUSC students to receive The Golden Lamp award – for the nurse students would most like to emulate as a professional – an unprecedented 4 times. Joy was also honored with MUSC’s CON faculty of the year award for excellence in teaching. This year she is nominated for MUSC’s Teaching Excellence award in the subcategory of Educator Mentor, Clinical/Professional. She advises all her students to get involved with APNA, telling them:

“Align yourself with professionals that are active in APNA, that work in the sub-specialties you are interested in. Your involvement in APNA will keep you at the cutting edge of your practice.”

Joy says, “what keeps me going is ensuring the next generation has a solid foundation. I am modeling that our work is much more than just writing a prescription. The importance of therapy and understanding people’s feelings is vital to this work.”

Joy further expands her practice by reaching under resourced children and families through– her clinical work within a homeless shelter.

For the past three years, Joy has also worked to pilot an innovative program providing preventative mental health interventions at an urban homeless shelter in Charleston. She works with PMH-DNP students to provide resiliency skills for trauma, parenting skill development, and mental health and substance use disorder assessments for mothers. This work provides a unique opportunity to provide services to both the mother and the children.

“It’s important to treat clients with compassion and kindness, offer presence without judgment, valuing connection while holding a safe space for healing and growth…”

“…the families I see are often 2nd generation homeless – fractured, with little support and often living in tents or cars. Their experiences have made them want to do things differently, but they don’t know how. We work to improve their understanding of what normal child developmental behavior is, provide anger management, parenting skills, support for the traumas they have experienced, and seek to build early attachment between mother and child.”

Joy credits APNA with the vital connections and the new opportunities that have helped build her impactful career. She began her involvement with APNA in 2011 and presented at the APNA Annual Conference seven consecutive years; served as co-chair of the APNA Child & Adolescent Council Steering Committee; been invited to speak at the APNA Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute, and served as co-chair of the APNA Telemental Health Task Force.

In addition to her ongoing teaching and multi-site practice, Joy continues to innovate – currently developing an exciting new children’s monthly subscription product that teaches key social-emotional skills.