AACN announces Pioneering Spirit Award winners for efforts to reduce burnout

April 9, 2021

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) announced it will present Marc Moss, MD, and Meredith Mealer, PhD, RN, with its AACN Pioneering Spirit Award. The award is one of AACN’s Visionary Leadership awards, which recognizes significant contributions that influence progressive and critical care nursing and relate to the association’s mission, vision and values. 

The presentation will occur during the 2021 National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition, held virtually this year, May 24 to 27. 

Moss and Mealer are clinicians and researchers at the University of Colorado (CU) School of Medicine, CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. A pulmonologist and head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, Moss is the Roger S. Mitchell Professor of Medicine, and Mealer is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. They will receive the AACN award in recognition of their collaborative work over the past 20 years to improve the mental health of healthcare personnel, especially nurses. 

“Drs. Moss and Mealer were among the first to identify the significant impact of stressful clinical work environments and develop evidence-based initiatives to strengthen nurses’ resilience and prevent burnout syndrome,” said AACN President Elizabeth Bridges. “Their research led to a proactive approach to supporting nurses’ mental health.” 

Their work evolved from researching the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among survivors of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a 2002 study Moss led at Emory University in Atlanta with Mealer as a research coordinator. This research has since yielded several studies examining the prevalence of PTSD, as well as anxiety, depression and burnout syndrome, among critical care nurses. 

Their ongoing research program aims to increase the resilience of individual nurses and, by extension, patients, hospitals and the healthcare system. Beyond their focus on interventions to improve individual resilience and coping skills, Moss and Mealer have developed pilot programs and hospital initiatives to address organizational barriers to promoting improvements in clinicians’ mental health. 

Among his many publications, Moss served as lead author of "An Official Critical Care Societies Collaborative (CCSC) Statement: Burnout Syndrome in Critical Care Health Care Professionals: A Call for Action,” co-published in the four CCSC member journals in 2016. The report was followed by the CCSC’s 2017 National Summit Prevention and Management of Burnout in the ICU, bringing together experts from a variety of fields to address burnout. 

In 2019, Mealer published “Coping with Caring: A Nurse's Guide to Better Health and Job Satisfaction,” a book that provides an in-depth exploration of resilience in nursing and how resilience interventions may help mitigate symptoms of psychological distress for nurses working in the acute care environment. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mealer also developed the Narrative Expressive Writing program to help critical care nurses and other front-line clinicians cope with increased anxiety, depression and trauma. The five-week online guided writing program offers a way for them to process their experiences and emotions anonymously, with feedback from trained mental health professionals. The program is supported by the Well-Being Initiative, an effort of the American Nurses Foundation in partnership with AACN and other leading nursing organizations. 

Moss is a past president of the American Thoracic Society. He is a graduate of Amherst College, in Massachusetts, and earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 

Mealer started her career as a critical care nurse at hospitals in North Carolina and Georgia before moving into clinical research at Emory University. She earned her graduate and doctoral degrees in nursing at CU and also holds a post-graduate certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. 

AACN has the release

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