Each month, the Research Council Steering Committee features an APNA member. This month, we are featuring Dr. Monika Wedgeworth!
As a new graduate, I never thought I would possibly have a career in nursing education or research. With a passion for mental health, my first job was on an inpatient psychiatric unit. I later obtained a master’s degree in nursing case management, with an emphasis on rural populations. Upon obtaining a doctoral degree in nursing education, my research focus naturally gravitated toward mental health education and mental health concerns in rural populations. Unfortunately, all rural counties in Alabama are either medically underserved or their low-income population is medically underserved. Considering the shortage of mental health professionals in Alabama, access to mental health care is a critical need in our state. The first federal grant I received was a behavioral health integration grant targeting nurse led clinics in rural areas. Behavioral health professionals are now providing access to care for residents in a rural nurse led clinic who otherwise would not be able to obtain treatment for mental health concerns. Rural Alabama also has high rates of opioid prescribing and subsequent overdose and deaths. Currently, I am on a federal grant team that is leading a consortium of rural stakeholders in the state to combat the opioid epidemic through training and coordinated resources. Another federal grant team I am working with trains individuals who have recovered from opioid use disorders to become peer recovery specialists. In addition, I currently serve on the State of Alabama Opioid Prescriber/Dispenser Task Force that is working to create a unified curriculum for schools whose students will have the ability to provide or dispense opioids. My advice to those considering a career in research is to follow your passion, be open to new ideas, and surround yourself with others who share your vision.
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Posted on behalf of the Research Council Steering Committee