April 24, 2014

Nancy Solomon

St. Louis Magazine Salutes Three SLU Nurses

St. Louis Magazine recognized a SLUCare pediatric nurse practitioner and two faculty members from Saint Louis University School of Nursing as among the top nurses in the region because of their positive impact on patients, students and colleagues.

The magazine received more than 200 nominations for its annual excellence in nursing awards and selected 66 finalists in 18 categories. The three SLU nurses were named the winners in each of their categories, the most top honors for SLU since the recognition began.

Judith Carlson, MSN, associate professor of nursing, was named the top nursing educator. A SLU nursing faculty member has captured the top educator award for four of the five years the magazine has given the award.

Dorcas McLaughlin, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing, was the winner in the neurology, psychology, behavioral health category; and Cara Christanell, MSN, pediatric nurse practitioner in the division of child protection, won the top recognition in non-natal pediatric category.

All finalists were recognized at an April 23 reception at the Chase Park Plaza, and nurses selected as winners are profiled in the May issue of St. Louis Magazine.

Judith Carlson, MSN

Judith Carlson, MSN

Carlson has been a nurse educator at Saint Louis University for more than four decades. “Judge Judy,” as one student called her, is a leader who is genuine, empathic, honest and warm. Her sense of caring for students is a creative blend of tough love and emotional caring.

When students have personal and academic crises, Carlson redirects their thinking from the negative, immediate tragedy to helping them view their experience as a stumbling on a much grander experience of life, not to be discouraged but to be challenged to do better.

She has chauffeured students who have no other way home from the airport, visited them in the hospital and dipped into her pockets to provide emergency financial support. Carlson is equally supportive of faculty, demonstrating her willingness to go the extra mile by mentoring them professionally and offering special help in times of personal crisis.

Carlson also is an innovative nurse educator whose work has helped shape SLU’s interprofessional education program, which teaches students from multiple disciplines how to work together to achieve the best possible patient outcome. She made major contributions to the most recent changes to SLU’s undergraduate nursing curriculum, and was honored last November with an award for transformative teaching and learning in the classroom. Her work with colleagues from the Madrid campus’ nursing program, which earned the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in Global Education, was instrumental in ensuring its success. She serves on numerous committees and task forces, giving freely of her time and talent.

The coauthor of six books and a major contributor to two federally funded projects at SLU’s School of Nursing, Carlson demonstrates leadership in nursing education beyond the University campus.

Dorcas McLaughlin, Ph.D.

Dorcas McLaughlin, Ph.D.

A stage is an unexpected tool Dorcas McLaughlin, Ph.D., employs to teach student nurses to better communicate with their patients. While much of nursing education is in the lecture “left brain” mode, McLaughlin taps into the “right brain,” incorporating art, music, physical movement and imagery to teach students how to connect with patients, which is critical for effective treatment.

One of only three board certified practitioners of psychodrama in Missouri, McLaughlin combines the stage in her classroom with props and lighting to encourage students to act and show rather than to simply talk and tell about experiences.

McLaughlin guides students through a complex form of role play, so they feel patient interactions as real and personal. Students act as patients, family members, nurses and hospital staff -- seeing a particular experience through many perspectives. This helps them to grow into more effective and empathic health practitioners who are better equipped to deal with patients as they face sensitive subjects.

McLaughlin brings to her teaching knowledge and skills from years as a clinical nurse specialist and practicing psychiatric mental health nurse, who now uses psychodrama to counsel individuals and couples. In her private practice, she cares for patients who frequently are in crisis and have complicated psychological issues, such as depression, grief/bereavement difficulty, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders and relationship issues. McLaughlin also is known in St. Louis for her special work with sexual trauma victims.

McLaughlin is director and treasurer of the American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, has lectured nationally and, during the past four years, has written seven research papers.

Cara Christanell, MSN

Cara Christanell,MSN

A champion for sexually abused and exploited children, Cara Christanell, MSN, is a SLUCare pediatric nurse practitioner for the child protection department of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. She provides physical examinations to young patients, many of whom have been sexually abused and are particularly vulnerable.

These exams are critical to assess the health and medical condition of a child and gather physical evidence for prosecutors to use in building a case against the child’s abuser. Sometimes they detect if the child has a condition that can be treated as early as possible, which can be crucial in preventing permanent physical, emotional or spiritual injury or disability.

Christanell conducts the delicate examinations with caring, compassion and expertise. She answers a child’s many questions honestly and with finesse, sharing the information in a way that is age and developmentally appropriate. She listens to the many concerns of parents, obtaining additional resources for them when possible.

While some nurses shy away from subpoenas and courtroom appearances, Christanell sees them as opportunities to provide a voice for children and to educate those in the legal profession. Her testimony has aided prosecutors in convicting and sentencing child predators, thereby providing justice for those who were injured and safety for countless other children.

As a leader in her field, she also trains professionals in law enforcement, health care and the children’s division of the Missouri Department of Social Services in an effort to assure that children receive the care they deserve.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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