Matthew TierneyMatthew Tierney, MSN, PMHNP-BC, FANP-BC, FAAN
2019 Award for Excellence in Leadership - APRN

Over the course of his psychiatric-mental health nursing career, there is a common thread for Matthew Tierney, MS, CNS, ANP, PMHNP, FAAN: connection. "I don’t feel any nurse stands alone,” he explains. “We are a web of individuals that make a safety net for mental health care.” As a leader, his dedication to patient engagement and compassionate care have stood out both to his peers and to those to whom he provides care. For his exceptional work, Matt is the 2019 recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Leadership – APRN.

Balancing two professional roles, Matt currently serves as associate clinical faculty at the University of California – San Francisco School of Nursing and does clinical work with the Office of Population Health and the San Francisco VA. “The two different aspects of my job help me continue the work that engages me most: making sure that the doors to treatment are always open and empowering the current and rising workforce to engage patients in care,” Matt says.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Substance use disorders

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Nurture engagement with others and promote it.”

How He Connects:
“One of the fun aspects of nursing is the countless ways we can engage with someone… It’s like nurses and scrubs – one size fits one!”

As an educator, Matt encourages his students to maintain a sense of curiosity and dedication to the individuals they treat. “Matt’s style of mentorship creates a thirst for more knowledge that serves as a springboard for nurses,” explains Carol Essenmacher, Matt’s reference. “He effectively uses his abilities in making information relatable in a real-world sense.” This style of mentorship reflects Matt’s perspective on nursing as more than a job. “People don’t go into nursing because the work is easy or because the pay is exorbitant – it is a real vocation,” he says. “When people respond to that, it’s because they seek engagement with others.”

In his clinical work, Matt is drawn to working with individuals with substance use disorders in part due to the stigma they face and the lack of access to care. “People who have substance use disorders are so often invalidated – not just because of their substance use, but in every aspect of their lives. Matt explains. “The patients we treat are as much deserving of validation and care as any patient out there…it’s that connection [with patients] that brings me to this care.”

Matt’s expertise in substance use disorders is highly valued by his peers and he is a respected leader in the field. He was the inaugural chair of the APNA Addictions Council and helped develop education for nurses on evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorders. “Matt is a national and international leader in addictions treatment,” says Bethany Phoenix, who nominated Matt for this award. “I have been impressed by his self-awareness and the astuteness of his questions…he actively seeks out the expertise of nursing and interprofessional colleagues to expand his own extensive knowledge base.” Matt routinely applies his skills and works with fellow experts in the field to review and develop substance use disorder education for nurses and other healthcare providers. He works with a number of organizations, including the National Academies’ Forum on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders and the Association for Multidisciplinary Education and Research in Substance Use and Addiction, promoting the visibility of nurses addressing the opioid crisis.

 “Matt continuously expands and improves any organizational and educational program he is involved with using his warm, engaging leadership style where all voices are welcome,” says Essenmacher. “He truly brings out the best practice in all nurses with his eye always on the improvement of psychiatric nursing care.” But for Matt, leadership is a collaborative effort. “A career in nursing can and should be dynamic and engageable at all times. We all do this work together and support one another in our work of helping other people,” he says. “I’m so humbled that my colleagues nominated me for this [award]. It’s hard to articulate how great this feels.”

Matt is truly a dynamic leader with a commitment to fostering engagement with patients and colleagues alike.  We will be celebrating his achievements twice this fall at the APNA 33rd Annual Conference: first as an Annual Awards recipient, and then again when he is inducted into his newest role as APNA President-Elect.

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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.