Joined USJ: 2013
Mary Lou Graham, APRN, is passionate about providing her students the training and skills necessary to deal effectively with the scope of mental health issues inherent in society. She comes to USJ well prepared with a wealth of experience; Graham is a licensed professional counselor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and a faculty member teaching psychiatric nursing to undergraduate and graduate students. Graham earned her nursing degree after earning her M.A. in Clinical Psychology because she wanted to provide hands-on care, as well as prescribe for her patients. To Graham, optimum treatment includes “integrating the psycho therapy, provision of medication, and physical care” of her patients. As a counselor, she is able to draw examples from her own clinical experiences and “make reality come to life” for her students.
There is still a widespread stigma associated with mental illness, but Graham thinks that recent tragic events may bring this issue out from under its shroud of secrecy and give clarity to what it is — a physical disease of the brain — thus changing the current view. She hopes to see more societal acceptance of mental illness, allowing those affected to seek help without fear of judgment or exclusion.
Graham views psychiatric nurses as an integral part of this process as they link patients to resources. “We need to have the whole continuum of illness matched with the continuum of services,” Graham said. She believes there should always be hope that someone with mental illness can live a better quality of life by seeking treatment.
The advice that Graham conveys to her students is the importance of self-care. It is necessary to monitor their own “alarm system” and recognize if their coping skills are impaired. If so, “take a break and talk to your peers,” she suggests. Graham also emphasizes that students cannot take it personally when a patient does not respond to a prescribed treatment plan as expected. As professionals, transparency is vital, so meeting with other health care providers for suggestions regarding a difficult case is encouraged to ensure a successful outcome. Seek out “evidence based practice” found in the literature and integrate recommendations and treatment plans taken from the research.
Looking ahead, Graham sees an “explosion of knowledge in the area of mental health over the next 20-30 years,” including focus on the prevalence of anxiety in our society and the development of safer medications. Still interested in research, Graham plans to incorporate that into her schedule and is impressed by the abundance of resources available at USJ.
MSN, Yale University School of Nursing
M.B.A., Central Connecticut State University
M.A., Fairleigh Dickinson University
B.A., College of the Holy Cross