Kathleen Delaney, PhD, PMH-NP, RN
2015 Psychiatric Nurse of the Year

For Kathleen Delaney, the choice to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse was clear: “Psychiatric nurses have to be interested in people’s lives and working with them through the dilemmas they face, and I just always was,” she says. That interest in people has grown into a lifelong career dedicated to advancing psychiatric-mental health nursing – and for her commitment to this cause, she has been named the 2015 APNA Psychiatric Nurse of the Year.

Delaney is professor and program director for Rush University’s PMH-NP program, which is ranked #3 in the nation by US News and World Report. “I’m an all-time teacher,” Delaney says, a belief that is echoed in her dedication to supporting her students. Because of Delaney’s efforts, Rush University’s Medical Center received one of five Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services demonstration grants for Graduate Nursing Education. To address the issue of access of mental health care, Delaney used CMS funding to pay for “start-up preceptors”. This creative idea supports the future of psychiatric-mental health nursing by increasing access to care for individuals in need and providing practice opportunities for nursing students. This spirit of mentorship exemplifies Delaney’s commitment to her students. “[My advice to students is] like Joseph Campbell says, follow your bliss. When you like something, stick with it,” she says.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Workforce Issues, Advocacy

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Like Joseph Campbell says, follow your bliss. When you like something, stick with it.”

Favorite Disney movie:
The Little Mermaid

Over the course of her teaching career, Delaney has also worked tirelessly to bring psychiatric-mental health nursing workforce issues to the forefront.  In 2013, she was appointed to her current position with the Illinois Center for Nursing Advisory Board by the Governor of Illinois. Delaney also serves with the Illinois Healthcare Action Coalition Practice Committee. She first took an interest in workforce studies with the Center for Mental Health Services. “I realized workforce data was critical to any dialogue on the national level about the potential of your workforce,” Delaney says. “Since that time, I’ve always tried to capture sources of workforce.”  As a result, she has been an author on several seminal publications regarding psychiatric-mental health nursing workforce.

“To me, there are few psychiatric-mental health nurses who have demonstrated such unwavering vision, perseverance, dedication, and facilitation in the delivery of mental health services as Dr. Delaney,” says Mary Johnson, who nominated Delaney for the award. “Dr. Delaney is always advocating for the presence of PMH nursing.” Johnson goes on to praise Delaney’s courage in raising provocative issues in the interest of bettering psychiatric-mental health nursing. “[Dr. Delaney] is willing to take on new challenges that show promise for improving nursing practice,” writes Diane E. Allen. “She is a patient advocate who promotes therapeutic nursing interactions as the foundation for helping people recover from illness.” Delaney’s commitment to advancing psychiatric-mental health nursing is also reflected by her service on the APNA task force that developed the APNA Seclusion and Restraint Position Paper and Standards of Practice. 

Delaney’s continued innovation and dedication to psychiatric-mental health nursing exemplify why she was named the APNA Psychiatric Nurse of the Year. “[This award] marks a career that’s been terribly important to me,” she says. “It marks my relationship with APNA.”  We look forward to celebrating her achievements at this year’s Annual Conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Like the main character in her favorite Disney film The Little Mermaid, Delaney is inquisitive and willing to push boundaries in her pursuit of goals – and psychiatric nursing is better for it.



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