2017 Psychiatric Nurse of the Year Jaclene Zauszniewski, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN has come a long way from the moment she knew she wanted to be a psychiatric-mental health nurse. “During my psychiatric clinical rotation in my diploma nursing program, I trained in a state mental hospital, where very few families visited,” she says. “I thought things could and should be so much better.” Despite her inclination towards mental health care, Dr. Zauszniewski first worked in a maternal-newborn setting at the hospital affiliated with her diploma nursing program to fulfill a two-year commitment. Years passed and this two-year commitment became ten. During those years, Dr. Zauszniewski was never able to forget her initial attraction to psychiatric-mental health nursing. As she describes it, “After ten years, I made a life-changing, albeit scary, decision to pursue my original clinical interest and started working as a psychiatric-mental health nurse.” But, once she was in the psychiatric-mental health nursing field, she says, “I really felt I was finally where I belonged.”
|At a Glance|
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Nursing research; caregiver health self-management
Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“We need psychiatric and mental health nurses who bring to the research table their clinical observations and fresh ideas for interventions and treatments.”
Psych Nursing Light Bulb Moment:
“[After 10 years as a maternal-newborn nurse,] I made a life-changing, albeit scary, decision [and] started working as a psychiatric and mental health nurse…I really felt I was finally where I belonged.”
Dr. Zauszniewski discovered an affinity for nursing research while earning her MSN in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing and subsequently her PhD in nursing. Throughout her PhD studies and beyond, she developed that interest and determined that her program of research would center on family members who were caregivers of persons with various types of mental illness. “I believe that the family members are, in fact, the ‘safety net’ for those persons who may be unable to live with their mental health condition in the best, most optimal way. And, the stress of providing ongoing care and support can take its toll on family members. They can become so overwhelmed and highly distressed that they themselves may become ill, either mentally or physically,” says Dr. Zauszniewski. “Therefore, my research focuses on developing tailored, health self-management interventions for family members of persons with mental health conditions, including, but not limited to dementia, anxiety and depressive disorders, and bipolar disorder.” Dr. Zauszniewski’s current research project is examining ways in which family caregivers of persons with bipolar disorder can maintain and improve their own health. This study is funded by a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Nursing Research and it is one of the first studies of its kind.
“Dr. Zauszniewski’s meaningful program of research has added knowledge that has improved clinical practice and reduced depressive symptoms in older adults, especially those with chronic illness, and caregivers of persons with mental illness. She has broadened the traditional perspectives and methods of intervention,” says Joyce Fitzpatrick, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN, one of Dr. Zauszniewski’s nominators. “Through continuing dedication to research and teaching others to be resourceful, independent, self-sufficient, and successful, she helps many of society’s most vulnerable individuals and families experience the highest possible quality of life.”
As the Kate Hanna Harvey Professor of Nursing and Director of the PhD in Nursing Program at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Zauszniewski has many opportunities to pursue her varied interests. “No two days are the same,” she says. But there is one facet of her position that most captivates her: mentoring future psychiatric-mental health nurse scientists.
“What I find most rewarding is my opportunity and privilege to mentor doctoral students through the research process. Seeing them evolve from their very first days in the PhD nursing program to the very moment when I ‘hood’ them at graduation, I am truly honored,” says Dr. Zauszniewski. Abir Bekhet, PhD, RN, HSMI, fondly remembers her guidance saying, “I have known Dr. Zauszniewski for nearly 15 years, first as a PhD student when she was my mentor and now as an invaluable colleague. She provides unrelenting support to students and faculty who are developing their research careers.”
Dr. Zauszniewski’s dedication to the next generation of psychiatric-mental health nurses is also reflected in her advice for future nurses. “There is so much more to do in terms of research in order to build our science for practice,” she says. “We need psychiatric and mental health nurses who bring to the research table their clinical observations and fresh ideas for interventions and treatments for those for whom we provide psychiatric and mental health care and their families.”
Dr. Zauszniewski remains humble in the face of receiving this award. “I am so grateful to be recognized for my work; however, none of it was accomplished solely by me. I have my colleagues, collaborators, mentees, and students to thank – as all of them have helped me in so many ways to accomplish what I have done in all aspects of my academic and professional life,” she says. We look forward to celebrating Dr. Zauszniewski’s accomplishments as a leader, researcher, and mentor at the APNA 31st Annual Conference in Phoenix.