Joy LauererJoy A. Lauerer, DNP, PMHCNS-BC, RN
2016 Award for Excellence in Education

Joy Lauerer is committed to eliminating the stigma students associate with psychiatric-mental health nursing. “I love being in the classroom. I love being a champion of mental health,” she says. “In the past, psychiatric-mental health was a course people dreaded. I’ve dedicated so much energy to making it an exciting course that the students can enjoy.” For her hands on approach to learning and innovative strategies to engage students, Joy Lauerer is the 2016 recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Education.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Educational Engagement

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Try to get as much experience as possible and really seek out mentoring opportunities.”

Favorite Color:
Blue (“We have beautiful skies in South Carolina, and I just love that I can look up every day and see that blue.”)

Lauerer is an Assistant Professor with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing. Her teaching method utilizes Content Expert Immersion Activities, which emphasize “flipped classroom” dynamic. Each week, Lauerer assigns a group of students to be “content experts” on a particular subject and design learning activities for their classmates. These activities can incorporate everything from a customizable trivia app to projected art therapy. Lauerer first leads a 70 minute content discussion before the students circulate through the activities in the second hour. At the end of class, the students come together to debrief and discuss what they learned. “Students engage more actively because of this,” Lauerer explains. “This generation of nursing students in particular is so technologically savvy that they want to be active participants in their learning. They don’t want to just sit and hear a 3 hour lecture anymore.” This dynamic style of teaching has clear results: Lauerer’s class is highly rated by her students. “Dr. Lauerer is a wealth of knowledge…her teaching methods foster critical thinking and creativity, and encourage self-directed learning and problem-solving,” according to one student.

Even outside the classroom, Lauerer seeks opportunities to further prepare her students for psychiatric-mental health nursing. She has led an inter-professional collaboration with One80 Place, Charleston’s homeless shelter, to improve mental health services for the homeless by incorporating medical and nursing students. Lauerer’s nursing students have shadowed her as she conducts screenings for trauma, ADHD, and other issues and leads a weekly parenting group. She currently serves as an APRN consultant to the shelter after moving her practice to a tele-psychiatric one.

When giving advice to her students and other future psychiatric-mental health nurses, Lauerer emphasizes the importance of networking – particularly through a professional organization. “I think APNA is a really important resource, especially for networking,” she says. “[I encourage future nurses to] try to get as much experience as possible and really seek out mentoring opportunities. I can’t stress enough how important this is. I’ve been so fortunate to work with one of the most accomplished psychiatric-mental health nurses, MUSC College of Nursing dean, Gail Stuart. She has been an amazing mentor.”

Lauerer’s role as a psychiatric-mental health nursing educator and practitioner is held in high regard amongst her colleagues and students alike. She has received the MUSC College of Nursing’s Golden Lamp Award, an award presented by the undergraduate students to an exceptional faculty member, an unprecedented 3 times. “Joy believes that psychiatric-mental health nursing is the essence of all nursing practice and that nursing students must learn that they can be with pain, sadness, and fear to facilitate deep healing,” says Gigi Smith, one of Lauerer’s nominators for this award. “She teaches by touching the hearts of students as she believes that all nurses learn to care by being cared for.” Gail Stuart, who also nominated her for the award adds, “Dr. Lauerer’s enthusiasm and passion for teaching makes her a stellar role model and notable educator. She models and makes her classroom a warm, caring environment that facilitates relationships with students and promotes trust and openness.”

For Lauerer, receiving this award has reinforced that education is her calling. “[This award] is a great honor because I know there are so many great nurse educators that are members of APNA,” she says. “It is an exciting time to be working with students who want to decrease the stigma of mental illness.” We look forward to celebrating Lauerer’s innovative teaching methods at the APNA 30th Annual Conference this fall in Hartford, Connecticut.


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The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.