Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10
Marissa Abram ’08 always knew she wanted to work in a helping field.
While pursuing her associate’s degree at Suffolk Community College, she held an internship at ACCESS, which provides alcohol and drug abuse counseling and educational services to residents and families in the Town of Islip.
During this experience, the agency’s director asked Abram if she had ever considered a career in nursing. It was at that point that Abram began looking into nursing. “When I found Adelphi’s program, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be,” she said.
“My undergraduate experience at Adelphi was a rich one,” she said. “My Adelphi professors provided me with a solid foundation and taught me the importance of delivering nursing care with compassion.”
It was at Adelphi that she found her niche. While her interest in mental health developed during her internship with a substance abuse program, she said it was in Dr. Trolman’s class that she really started learning about psychiatric nursing. “At that point I knew psychiatric nursing was the path I was going to take….it was where I would end up in nursing,” she said.
After graduating from Adelphi in 2008, Abram landed a job working on a surgical intensive care unit at Stony Brook Medical Center. At the same time, she pursued her master’s degree in psychiatric mental health nursing from Stony Brook University, which she earned in 2010. In 2011, she joined Phoenix House, a nonprofit treatment provider of individualized, holistic drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner working in Phoenix House’s residential program, Abram said this setting offers her the opportunity to practice in a “special way.” Because the patients live on site, she gets to know them well, working with them from admission through discharge. “I don’t just see patients for an hour once a week or month. I get the opportunity to attend team treatment meetings or coordinate with my patients’ counselors and medical teams. It’s a great place that addresses all of the patients’ needs.”
Abram said her favorite part of her work is being with people “at their most vulnerable moments.” She cherishes her role, working with men, women and adolescents to overcome substance and alcohol abuse in order to lead healthy, productive and rewarding lives.
“Every day, I get the opportunity to grow more,” she said. “There has been this continuous evolution of who I am as a nurse and as a professional.” In 2013, she returned to her alma mater to pursue her Ph.D., which she said has been “one of the hardest and best experiences” she has ever had.
Abram, who was actively involved in Student Nurses Acting for Progress (SNAP) as an undergraduate at Adelphi, is currently involved with organizations including Sigma Theta Tau, the American Nurses Association and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. “It’s really important to be a part of professional organizations,” she said. “Working in the healthcare world, which is dynamic and changing, you need to be aware of your practice and your scope.” In addition, she serves as the co-chair of the NY State OASAS Nurses Advisory Panel and on the Board of PULSE of NY, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about patient safety and reducing medical errors through advocacy, education and support.
Abram, who is excited for the research required for her Ph.D., has recently embarked on her dissertation, which will focus on the role of the nurse in addiction settings. “Addiction is a complex disease,” she said. “I feel nurses have the training and abilities that make them versatile enough to meet the addicted patient’s needs comprehensively.”
A long-term goal of Abrams’ is to engage in research that will look at the addicted patient’s perspective. “I hope to one day utilize my research skills to give the addicted patient a voice, to have these individuals be heard, to take away the stigma. My hope is that addiction will truly be accepted as a disease. In this way people can be educated to understand prevention and seek treatment without shame,” she said.
Abram loves the opportunities she has received from doing the work that she does. “Being a nurse I’ve gotten to do incredible things…and Adelphi has played a big role in that,” she said. “I pride myself in being a nurse. Even when I have my doctorate degree…and no matter what path I take…being a nurse will always be my core identity.”