Teena McGuinness, PhD, PMHNP-BC, FAAN
2018 Award for Excellence in Education
"What if we could build effective relationships with students in a web-based environment and help them to become psych APRNs?” asked Teena McGuinness back in 1999. The answer to this question prompted McGuinness to cultivate an education program that would reach remote areas and funnel nurses where they were needed: state mental hospitals, prisons and rural community mental health clinics. For her pioneering work to implement distance learning strategies building a PMHNP workforce in the rural Deep South, Teena McGuiness is the 2018 recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Education.
|At a Glance|
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Access to mental health care with dignity
Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
"Become a lifetime member of APNA and engage in the organization so you can be on the leading edge of our frontier specialty. It will do good for both your patients and your career (a career filled with meaning and purpose)."
How She Makes Every Day Extraordinary:
“I see myself as a co-explorer with students, faculty, and co-workers with whom I engage. We build meaning and purpose as we move down the road together."
Susanne A. Fogger, DNP, CRNP, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, FAANP, one of her nominators explains, “No such programs existed in the state or the region. Moving to the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Nursing, Dr. McGuinness initiated a distance accessible psychiatric NP specialty program to meet the psychiatric needs of the region. Since 1997, she has taught, mentored or influenced the education of over 300 psychiatric nurse practitioners and faculty who now practice in Alabama and other Deep South states. These states have extremely low resources for mental health services; her efforts have improved access to care for thousands of patients.”
As the department chair for 63 faculty at the University of Alabama and the co-director of psychiatric nurse practitioner residency in a joint partnership with the Birmingham VA Medical Center, McGuinness focuses on educating new psychiatric NPs on veteran-centric care. Nursing students complete the program with expertise in both treating veterans as well as the many Americans who suffer from the same disorders: mood and anxiety disorders, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. She sees the role of the nurse as more than providing care to persons with mental illness. “Being a psychiatric nurse is a sacred journey. It is a job with a salary but it is also a set of lenses through which we view the world. I see myself as a co-explorer with students, faculty, patients, and co-workers with whom I engage. We build meaning and purpose as we move down the road together,” she says.
According to McGuinness, psychiatric-mental health nurses face challenges as a profession but are not without the tools to succeed. “There are effective treatments but a woeful lack of access due to stigma and archaic funding streams. Suicide rates continue to rise significantly, despite good evidence-based approaches. The move toward integrated behavioral health care is nascent and holds tremendous promise.” She advises nurses to combat the stigma they themselves face, “Learn some pithy elevator speeches and be ready to advocate for our population: ‘It’s okay to ask for help’ is one of my favorites…and ‘psychiatric disorders are brain disorders.’”
Based on her personal experience and gratitude for the education she receives through conferences and publications, she urges current and future PMHNPs to give themselves the same opportunities: “Become a lifetime member of APNA and engage in the organization so you can be on the leading edge of our sorely needed specialty. It will do good for both your patients and your career which is a career filled with meaning and purpose.”
For broadening the reach of psychiatric-mental health nursing programs, McGuinness will be honored at the APNA 32nd Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio. We look forward to celebrating her achievements.