Jess CalohanJess Calohan, DNP, PMHNP-BC
2018 Award for Excellence in Practice - APRN

Jess Calohan’s psychiatric-mental health nursing perspective is informed by his decades of military experience. “After 20-plus years in the army and 3 combat deployments, it’s a big part of my identity,” he says. “A lot of the work and a lot of the accomplishments I could not have done without the military and the opportunities that I had.” Geraldine Pearson, one of Jess’s nominators for this award and the Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, elaborates further: “Jess is my expert person on all issues involving mental health and the military. His past experience in Iraq, his continued involvement with veterans, and his commitment to education of nursing students transcends specific populations and makes him a leader in psychiatric-mental health nursing.” For his outstanding work as a PMH-APRN, Jess is the 2018 recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Practice – APRN.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Veteran Care; PTSD and Nightmare Reduction

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“There's lots of opportunity to make a difference. We get an opportunity to really interact with our community and with different specialties within the medical system."

How He Makes Every Day Extraordinary:
“I get coffee with my wife every single day. We have coffee, and we just talk about anything…even when she travels, we still have coffee together over the phone and it sets the tone for the day."

Jess currently provides telepsychiatric services to two hospital systems in rural western Washington State and is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University. In both roles, he works to encourage the integration of mental health care into primary care services and create more resources for those seeking care. As a professor, Jess encourages his students raise awareness for and advocate within their nursing community. “[As psych nurses,] we get an opportunity to really interact with our community and with different specialties within the medical system,” he says. “Our sphere of influence is fairly broad, particularly among nursing specialties.”

Jess mentors his peers in healthcare and students and provides guidance to decrease stigma and promote access to mental health care. “Dr. Calohan serves a rural healthcare center, providing psychiatric care to patients and psychiatric consultation and education to a multidisciplinary staff,” says Rhonda Schwindt, Jess’s nominator, of his mentorship. “Psychiatric-mental health nursing is definitely an area where there is a significant need and lots of opportunities to make a difference – not only in providing direct care to patients but also in leadership roles,” Jess says.

An expert in combat-related trauma, Jess applied his lived experience to the development of the Nightmare Reduction Initiative (NRI). The NRI takes a two-pronged approach to provide care to veterans experiencing combat-trauma nightmares. In both the research and treatment sides of the NRI, Jess’s goal was to create a program that would address the needs of this population while expanding access to care. Additionally, he needed to overcome a significant obstacle: the stigma attached to seeking mental health care within the military. To do this, Jess found a simple yet effective answer. “Everyone has sleep problems!” he explains. “By targeting sleep instead of PTSD, people were more willing to open up about their sleep issues rather than having to seek out mental health care.”

Jess was part of a research team with Dr. Murray Raskins and the Puget Sound Veterans Integrated Support Network that examined the efficacy of Prazosin to address combat-related nightmares. In 2013, their work was honored as the top innovation in psychiatry by the New England Journal of Medicine. “Jess has absolutely been an influential role model, especially to veterans with combat-related PTSD,” says Pearson of his work. “He has opened doors around innovative treatment strategies for veterans, an often forgotten population in our nation.”

The dedicated care Jess provides to those who have experienced trauma in combat can be emotionally taxing. To prevent burnout, Jess has made a habit of staying centered with a daily ritual. “I get coffee with my wife every single day,” he explains. “We have coffee, and we just talk about anything…even when she travels, we still have coffee together over the phone and it sets the tone for the day.” Jess shares this sense of balance with all those to whom he provides care, and we look forward to celebrating his lasting impact at the APNA 32nd Annual Conference.


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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.