April Gerlock, PhD, PMHNP-BC, ARNP
Gretchen Schodde Lifetime Achievement Award
The Gretchen Schodde Lifetime Achievement Award honors those who further the profession of advanced practice psychiatric nursing and promote the mental health and well-being of those served. This year the AAPPN is proud to recognize April Gerlock as the 2021 Gretchen Schodde Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
April is a distinguished clinician and internationally renowned scientist. Her work in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), violence, and trauma-informed care has made a significant impact on patient care. Her work has also informed national policy and practice guidelines.
Her 35 years of work in the intersection of PTSD and violence has resulted in the publication of numerous articles and book chapters. She has participated in several grant projects including serving as the principal investigator for a federally funded grant looking at PTSD and intimate relationships.
April has been a preceptor and faculty for PMHNP students since 1980s. Over the years, she has mentored countless PMHNPs and inspired those who crossed paths with her. She has provided training for health care professionals nationwide and works with members of law enforcement and the justice system in providing continuing education on issues pertaining to trauma, violence, and mental health issues.
Additionally, April has held several national positions. She was the chair of the Advanced Practice Nursing Advisory Group and the Multidisciplinary Advisory Group and a member of the Veterans’ Health Administration Central Office Mental Health Queri Executive Committee. She was awarded the esteemed Linda Saltzman Memorial Intimate Partner Violence Research Award by the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Having the privilege of working with trauma survivors. I never cease to be amazed at how resilient people are and how they maintain their dignity in the face of some of the most horrific things humans do to other humans. Their capacity to survive is truly amazing and I learn from them over-and-over again how to maintain personhood and humanity in response to the inhumane.
My biggest professional rewards have been going to college and getting each of my degrees. Other high points include accompanying a therapy group of Vietnam veterans on a trip to Vietnam in 1989 for the PBS/Frontline documentary “Two Decades and a Wakeup,” receiving a Department of Veterans Affairs Merit Review Grant focused on intimate partner violence and post-traumatic stress disorder, and receiving the Linda Saltzman Memorial Intimate Partner Violence Research Award in 2014. And now, receiving the Gretchen Schodde Lifetime Achievement Award!
How has your profession has changed over the years?
Oh, where do I begin! When I started my career there were no doctorates in nursing. No PhDs or DNPs. Our professors had PhDs from other fields. Sitting for my first ANCC exam (Psych CNS) required two years of supervised work in nursing post master’s degree. The ANCC psych exam came along around the year 2000, so all of the psych CNSs had to take classes to sit for the exam. Therapeutic modalities have changed but the basics of establishing trust and facilitating communication have remained the same.
What role has the AAPPN played in your career?
I have been a member of AAPPN for decades. It is the one organization that perfectly fits my professional needs. It is an amazingly talented and knowledgeable group of people who are wonderful at providing support, resources, and information. When we were informed that we would need to take the psych nurse practitioner exam to maintain an ARNP license (many of us had already been practicing for decades and had forged the psych NP role), AAPPN put together a curriculum with invited lecturers to meet the requirements. The work of the AAPPN key organizers was essential in shepherding us through that process. It is a very interesting story that hopefully is archived in the AAPPN history.