Julie WorleyJulie Worley, PhD, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC
2017 Award for Excellence in Practice - APRN


Through her work with children, adolescents, and young adults with substance use disorders in two settings, Julie Worley has observed the stigma associated with substance use. In response, she has worked to implement a paradigm shift to combat this stigma. “Throughout her career, Dr. Worley has been influential as a role model to other psychiatric nurses in her training on substance use disorders,” says Michelle Heyland, one of Julie’s nominators. “In fact, the reason I use ‘substance use disorders’ now as opposed to ‘substance abuse’ is because of her work to de-stigmatize these disorders… Through her work with healthcare providers and members of the community, she has been able to increase awareness on how substance use disorders should be treated like any other medical condition.” For this work, Julie Worley is the 2017 recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Practice – APRN.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Substance Use Disorders

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Always show patients that you care and be a good listener. Take good care of yourself and make time for life balance.”

Psych Nursing Light Bulb Moment:
“I knew I was meant for psychiatry was when I was working as a FNP in a jail and was leading women’s support groups. I realized this was my calling.”

Originally from Illinois, it was upon moving to Tennessee that Julie began cultivating her interest in substance use disorders. She noticed an unexpected pattern: healthcare providers inadvertently prescribing medications that sustain opioid addiction through doctor shopping. “I experienced many patients coming to see me for prescriptions for benzodiazepines and stimulants under questionable circumstances and I noticed a lack of research in the area at that time,” says Julie. “In conducting qualitative interviews with women who engage in doctor shopping, my eyes were opened to the struggles and vulnerabilities of people with substance use disorders.” Julie then began researching safe prescribing methods as well as strategies for identifying and managing prescription drug abuse. She has shared her work through publications and presentations to fight the opioid epidemic by empowering nurses. She is currently developing a training program for providers to further disseminate her expertise. “Julie believes it is essential for providers to understand both prescribing guidelines and the lived experience of individuals who doctor shop,” says Kathleen Delaney, who nominated Julie for this award. “In her numerous presentations and papers on this issue she role models compassion for the individual and language for providers to address the issue of opioid addiction and offer hope and resources for recovery.”

After returning to Illinois, Julie joined an inpatient treatment facility with children and adolescents and a young adult recovery home where she serves patients from an intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization program. “Julie’s services provide needed integrated care informed by her knowledge and expertise in medical issues. She often discovers clients who have never had treatment for their mental health issues or were misdiagnosed,” says Delaney. “Individuals often came back to her clinic remarking they had never experienced this level of relief from intense emotions and thoughts.” Of her two roles, Julie says: “These are very complex patients with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. They have also often experienced trauma and have had very challenging social histories. Many times there has been involvement with the legal system. Many, however, have been very successful in school and have supportive families so they have a fairly good prognosis. It is very rewarding to play a role in my patients’ recovery.”

Julie has always been drawn to helping people. “I started volunteering in a nursing home at age 15,” she says. “I became a nurses’ aid in that nursing home at age 16 and found that I had the patience and compassion for working with patients with mental health disorders…I am very thankful to be blessed with the ability to skillfully make accurate diagnoses and implement evidence based treatment strategies so that my patients get better. I believe patients can tell when you care and I truly care about my patients. ” We look forward to celebrating Julie’s dedication to her craft at the APNA 31st Annual Conference this fall in Phoenix, Arizona.


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