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Young Alumni Award Recipient:
John Gransbach

John GransbachThe recession of 2008 drove John Gransbach out of retail management in Philadelphia and into a nursing career in St. Louis, his hometown.

"I decided to take a different path where I can make a difference in people's lives every day," he says.

At age 30, he enrolled at Goldfarb and soon joined the Student Nurses Association. A natural leader, he encouraged other students to join, too.

Because of his efforts in recruiting nursing students, he was honored with the Project In-Touch Award at the Student Nurses Association national convention in 2013.

His work ethic and enthusiasm caught the attention of a manager while he was completing his second clinical at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She encouraged him to apply for a student nurse technician position at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

"It was a great experience, and I learned a lot to build my skills," Gransbach says.

Gransbach's experience as a male in a predominantly female field made him search for support. From his advisor he learned about the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN). So with support from the college dean and his advisor, Gransbach established and was president the first local AAMN chapter in St. Louis. They named the local chapter Goldfarb Men Excelling in Nursing, or GMEN.

"I'm glad the group is still going 10 years later," Gransbach says. "GMEN gave us opportunities to talk to high school and young college students about going into nursing. With the nursing shortage, we need to broaden our recruitment to get more men into the nursing field."

At graduation, he was recognized with the Dean's Honor for Service because of his role in launching GMEN at Goldfarb.

One of his final experiences at Goldfarb led him into pediatric nursing. Through a course in HIV nursing care, he went to Swaziland, Africa, for two weeks as part of a research project to learn if information about HIV was better accepted through peer-to-peer student education. Swaziland had the highest HIV infection rate in the world.

"In Swaziland, I saw what true poverty looks like and saw the vulnerability and resilience kids have through the hardest things you can imagine. After that experience, there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to go into pediatrics."

Gransbach graduated with honors from Goldfarb in 2012 and joined the St. Louis Children's Hospital nursing team. After his first year in a float pool, Gransbach transferred to the inpatient surgical floor and pediatric acute wound service, where he worked as a staff nurse and charge nurse for six years.

"I loved it and met patients who are still a daily inspiration to me," he says. "When times are hard, they remind me why I'm in this field."

Because of his impact on patients, he received the DAISY award in 2017. The DAISY Award is an international recognition program honoring extraordinary nurses for their skills and compassion.

Early in his career, Gransbach implemented Mindful Minutes with his team. He believes in starting every shift with a mindful minute for more positive energy and functioning.

"The things we do are incredibly hard," he says. "That's why good self-care and mindfulness is so important."

His own experiences with depression and anxiety drew him to behavioral health in 2019. By 2020, he was a clinical nurse educator in behavioral health at St. Louis Children's.

"I'm committed to educating people about behaviors, the importance of mindfulness, and reducing the stigma around behavioral health," Gransbach says. "That's why I'm open and honest about the depression and anxiety I have personally experienced."

He says the biggest accomplishment of his career was opening the Pediatric Behavioral Health Unit at St. Louis Children's in 2020. It was the first adolescent behavioral unit to open in St. Louis in more than 20 years.

"Having this safety net and extra layer of protection for kids going through mental health crises is the most rewarding part of my career," he says.

Gransbach was instrumental in conceptualizing the unit, training the team, providing orientation and developing the standard work on the unit, along with the programming that offers psychoeducation for patients.

Another reason he was drawn to behavioral health is that the hospital has seen a major influx of children with behavioral health needs and suicidality.

"Suicide is an epidemic among young people," Gransbach says. "The pandemic exacerbated a problem that was already there. In Missouri, it's the leading cause of death for ages 10-17. Our Behavioral Health Unit is truly a safety net for these kids."

Currently, Gransbach is pursuing a doctorate in nursing (DNP) and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) and a minor in health care systems innovation.

His DNP project is focused on using mindful meditation to reduce anxiety in the acute care setting and to reduce suicidality.

Gransbach graduated from the Zero Suicide Academy. To date, he has educated more than 500 nurses and residents on suicide prevention and screening to raise awareness and reduce stigma around suicide. Patients over 12 who come to the hospital ER are now routinely screen for suicidality.

Gransbach is also a certified instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). With the support from senior leadership, he and his team brought the program to the hospital and created a training program to help staff more effectively engage patients and reduce the use of mechanical restraints and workplace violence. The results have been positive, and the hospital now has a hospital-wide CPI committee.

His work is being noticed beyond hospital walls. Recently, he was nominated for the March of Dimes Behavioral Health nurse of the year award. And he was honored with the 2021 St. Louis Magazine Excellence in Nursing Awards for Neurology, Psychology and Behavioral Health.

"After I first graduated from nursing school, I thought I might go into leadership or administration, but I decided to stay a nurse for a while to learn more skills," he says. "I'm so glad I did, otherwise I wouldn't be on this path. This is where I'm supposed to be now."

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