October 10, 2019

Adams named Psychiatric Nurse of the Year

Susie Adams, PhD, has been named 2019 Psychiatric Nurse of the Year by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.


by Matt Batcheldor

Susie Adams, PhD, professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, was named 2019 Psychiatric Nurse of the Year by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA). The award was presented Oct. 2 at the annual APNA convention in New Orleans.

Susie Adams, PhD

APNA is the largest organization of psychiatric mental health nurses in the world, with more than 12,500 members. The Nurse of the Year award recognizes an APNA member who demonstrates vision, perseverance, dedication, initiative and facilitation in delivery of mental health services to individuals, families and communities.

“It’s really kind of humbling,” Adams said. “I have felt very privileged over the years to be active at a national level. APNA has grown tremendously from when I first became active in the organization in 1999, when there were about 1,200 members. They are now the voice of psychiatric nursing nationally.” She served the professional organization in various roles, including as APNA president from 2015 to 2016.

Adams is currently VUSN’s Faculty Scholar for Community Engaged Behavioral Health, contributing her talents in teaching, clinical care, community outreach and research on campus, locally and nationally.

As academic director of Vanderbilt’s psychiatric program for two decades, Adams transitioned its clinical nurse specialist program into one of the first three psychiatric nurse practitioner programs in the nation. She was also instrumental in moving the program to a hybrid educational format that used distance learning, the first at VUSN. The hybrid format opened access for nurses in rural and distant areas to obtain psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner education. Under her direction, VUSN’s PMHNP program rose to national prominence. It is now ranked No. 2 by U.S. News and World Report.

In addition to her academic role, Adams is recognized as a national expert on substance abuse and mental health disorders. In 2014, she transitioned to the newly created Faculty Scholar role, in which she acts as a liaison between community nonprofit mental health agencies and the School of Nursing.

In her role as VUSN Faculty Scholar for Community Engaged Behavioral Health, she functions as a bridge from Vanderbilt to many community service agencies, such as Dismas House for men re-entering the community from incarceration, and The Next Door and Renewal House, providing trauma-informed substance abuse and mental health treatment for women, including pregnant and parenting women.

She serves on the Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core and mentors doctoral nursing students and medical students in community-based research and quality improvement projects. It’s estimated that over her 30-year career as a nursing educator, she launched more than 550 PMHNPs and mentored more than 40 DNP students, all of whom have a long-lasting national impact on provision of quality behavioral health care.

“I have been so fortunate with the learning experiences that I’ve had during my career, both in formal academic settings and in the practice, teaching, and research roles that I’ve had,” she said. “I still love what I do. I learn every day from students, patients and colleagues. That’s what makes Vanderbilt such a special place.”