Addressing Mental Health Needs through a Lifetime of Learning

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Meet Erin Cloke, a 2013 MSN alumna and 2022 Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Post Master’s Certificate graduate, who has recently opened her own private mental health practice in Austin, Texas. Erin’s path to becoming a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) has been anything but traditional. She has been a bartender, a sculptor, a telemarketing manager, a community sexual health educator, a clinic manager and a bedside nurse. Ms. Cloke has even developed course curriculum on numerous subjects, including nursing, and founded a non-profit for at-risk youth. “All this, in addition to being a single mother of two! Each of these experiences has contributed to building the skillset I rely on every day.”

In 2011, after nearly 20 years away from academia, Erin returned to The University of Texas at Austin as an Alternate Entry Master of Science in Nursing (AE-MSN) student, focusing on nursing education. Since earning her MSN degree, Erin has worked at Dell Seton Medical Center as an acute care nurse, preceptor, and educator for their residency program. Ms. Cloke also taught at Texas Tech and Austin Community College before being invited to join the School of Nursing at Concordia University in 2018 as an adjunct professor where she focused on teaching clinicals and nursing skills. “I love finding new and creative ways to help students learn complex concepts by making the information memorable and easy to understand. This often involves humor, even when conveying serious and life-or-death material.” Ms. Cloke took an active role in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and, in addition to caring for COVID patients, worked with the education team to help teach nursing staff critical safety policies and prepare procedures for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

While working with patients as a nurse, and as a professor, Erin observed the mental health struggles prevalent in our community. This prompted her return to the UT Austin School of Nursing in 2022, where Ms. Cloke earned her PMHNP certificate. Erin’s approach as a mental health nurse practitioner is person-centered with the intention of helping patients understand the inner workings of their bodies and minds so they can identify, plan, and work toward achieving personalized goals through medicine and mindfulness that will improve their day-to-day lives. “My favored teaching style has also translated to my approach to therapy: I use calm, non-judgmental, open communication to quickly develop therapeutic rapport. I integrate my experience as an artist, an educator and a bedside nurse to determine stressors, diagnose mental illness and collaborate on strategies to holistically manage my clients’ concerns.”

Ms. Cloke continues her journey through learning and education, adding more skills and modalities to grow professionally and to help her patients achieve wellness. “Though it has been a long and winding road to reach my current destination, I’m excited to have found a calling that utilizes all of my past knowledge and experiences!”

We honor Erin Cloke for working to address the mental health needs of our community, and for her dedication to helping others learn and grow in the nursing profession.

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