2018 Psychiatric Nurse of the Year

Mary MollerIn January 1985, Mary Moller put an ad in the Omaha World-Herald: “Class on schizophrenia…anyone who is interested is welcome to come.” 55 participants, including individuals with schizophrenia, family members, and three social workers, attended that first class. The effort launched a program that brings together patients, families, and healthcare providers to educate and inform those impacted by mental health. This is just one example of how this year’s APNA Psychiatric Nurse of the Year demonstrates vision, perseverance, dedication, initiative and facilitation in the delivery of mental health services to individuals, families and their communities.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Psychiatric rehabilitation; Neurobiological approaches to SMI

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Never give up on yourself, the patient, their family, your fellow co-workers, or the system."

How She Makes Every Day Extraordinary:
“I wake up wondering what new research finding I will read about today that will shed even more light into the everyday world of individuals with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Then I start thinking about how to translate that into education for others to continue my war on eliminating stigma. Ultimately I ponder how to develop the research finding into improved interventions."

Mary “developed a psychoeducational model that brought together the patient, the family, and the provider so that all could learn from each other how best to meet the needs of the patient and the family,” says Kris McLoughlin, who nominated Mary for this award. “She has never shied away from challenging the status quo.” This is driven by a core motivation: “The underlying theme of all my activities is to improve the access to and care of individuals with mental illnesses and their family members,” Mary says. “When in doubt, I have relied on my nursing skills to pull me through and do what was best for the patient, not what was right for the system.”

Mary began breaking the mold when, just after graduating with her Master’s Degree from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, she created a series of community workshops about the importance of mental health. “I started teaching care of the patient with schizophrenia using the old filmstrips of understanding signs and symptoms of stroke based on the parts of the brain affected,” she says. “I just adapted these principles for mental illness regardless. It worked! I was doing what we now call psychiatric rehabilitation.” She also challenged the status quo when she moved to Spokane, Washington and founded a rural outpatient clinic for persons with Serious Mental Illnesses that was the first of its kind in the U.S. to be independently owned and operated by APRNs.

As Associate Professor at Pacific Lutheran University, Director of Psychiatric Services at Northwest Integrated Health, and in international lectures, publications, and program consultations, Mary makes use of many platforms to make the scientific knowledge that informs care and quality of life accessible. “Dr. Moller is one of the national and international leaders in translating scientific information into lay language for the purpose of enhancing understanding and improving the quality of people’s lives,” says Michael Rice, one of Mary’s references. “Her commitment to ‘why this knowledge matters’ continues through the current date.”

“If one looks at all the academic courses Mary has taught, the clinical preceptor hours she has put in, and her workshops and presentations, the number of nurses she has assisted in their careers is too extensive to count,” says McLoughlin. Mary sees this time devoted to sharing knowledge – and why it matters – as a mode of encouraging transformation. “I have often reflected on my original uninformed fear of individuals with mental illness that was based on being raised in the 1950s in a very stigmatizing environment for anyone who was ‘different’. As I retrace my personal transformation into an international advocate through learning the truth about the lived experience of mental illness, I become excited all over again to help others experience the same transformation,” she says.

When looking to the future, Mary sees both challenge and hope. “The delivery of psychiatric-mental health care services is on a very precarious slope these days due to ongoing stigma, decreased funding, the unfortunate transfer of care for many from hospitals to jails and prisons—just to name a few. However, I am seeing an increase in interest in young people in the provision of care and treatment for individuals with mental illnesses as well as substance abuse disorders. This is providing hope for the future and why I continue in education—I want to instill in others the joy of sharing in and experiencing the incredible rewards of providing care to those who suffer the most in our society.”

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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.