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University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies releases whitepaper on supporting nurses’ mental health

By Sharla Hooper

Authors Dr. Kimberly Underwood, Dr. Sun Jones and Dr. Jose Garza draw on resources including 2022 Career Optimism Index® study

University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies, has released a new whitepaper, “Supporting the Mental and Emotional Health of Nurses within the Hospital Setting,” a collaboration between authors Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., MBA, chair, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR); Sun Jones, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, who serves as the Systematic Plan for Evaluation and Curriculum leader in the University of Phoenix College of Nursing, and Jose Garza, DHA, MBA, College of Doctoral Studies alum.

Drawing upon resources including data from the 2022 University of Phoenix Career Institute® Career Optimism Index® study, the whitepaper discusses the toll of the pandemic on nursing mental health and subsequent attrition and career decision-making among nurses. The whitepaper points out the urgency of promoting sustaining practices of support throughout the profession and offers recommendations on building a paradigm with core principles as a framework to support nurses’ mental health.

“Hospital and healthcare leaders now have the opportunity to take action to mitigate the current trend of nursing burnout, mental health exhaustion, and nursing attrition,” states Jones. “Leadership has a responsibility to foster a path to improve workplace culture and establish a culture that recognizes trauma and provides empathy and support. Nurse leaders especially have the ability to shape the culture and healthcare organization through developing and implementing effective leadership styles and compassion for employees, including nurses.”

Underwood has served as a senior executive in municipal government and has more than ten years of higher education teaching experience. She has been a faculty member with the University of Phoenix since 2009. Underwood earned her Ph.D. in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MBA from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She also holds certifications in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management from Georgetown University and Diversity and Inclusion in Human Resources from Cornell University.

Jones has 27 years of nursing experience and has been a family nurse practitioner for 21 years. Earlier in 2022, she was a recipient of the Arizona Governor’s Volunteer Service Pandemic Response Award, for her work organizing COVID-19 vaccination clinics serving Arizona minority communities during the pandemic. Jones earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice at Arizona State University in 2010 and has been a faculty member with the University of Phoenix since 2011.

Garza is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston (UTHealth), where he assists with the daily operations of the emergency medicine department at the McGovern Medical School. Prior to UTHealth, he worked for the City of Houston in a tuberculosis clinic and managed the administrative functions of a county clinic for Child Protective Services. Garza completed his Doctorate in Health Administration with University of Phoenix and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare management from Our Lady of the Lake University.

The full whitepaper is available at the University of Phoenix Career Institute® webpage or as a direct link here.

About the College of Doctoral Studies

University of Phoenix’s College of Doctoral Studies focuses on today’s challenging business and organizational needs, from addressing critical social issues to developing solutions to accelerate community building and industry growth. The College’s research program puts students in the center of an effective ecosystem of experts, resources and tools to help prepare them to be a leader in their organization, industry and community. Through this program, students and researchers work with organizations to conduct research that can be applied in the workplace in real time.

About the Career Optimism Index®

The Career Optimism Index® study is one of the most comprehensive studies of Americans’ personal career perceptions to date. The University of Phoenix Career Institute® will conduct this research annually to provide insights on current workforce trends and to help identify solutions to support and enhance American careers and create equity in the workplace. For the second annual study, more than 5,000 U.S. adults were surveyed about how they feel about their careers at this moment in time, including their concerns, their challenges, and the degree to which they are optimistic about core aspects of their careers and their future. The study was conducted among a diverse, nationally representative, sample of U.S. adults among a robust sample to allow for gender, generational, racial, and socioeconomic differences and includes additional analysis of workers in the top twenty media markets across the country to uncover geographic nuances. This year, the study also explored insights from 500 U.S. employers who are influential or play a critical role in hiring and workplace decisions within a range of departments, company sizes and industries to provide comparison between the workforce and those who hire, train and retain them.

About University of Phoenix 

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit