Community connection

by Matt Jardin  |   

Catherine Haese
(Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

For many students, making it to graduation can feel like a matter of life and death. Not only is that metaphor literal for psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner graduate and spring 2023 graduate student speaker Catherine Haese, it’s happened twice.

Originally from Minnesota, she moved to Alaska with her mother and sister in 1999. Having always taken care of people’s needs, Haese decided in a high school health class to develop her nurturing disposition by pursuing a career in nursing. 

Wanting to stay and serve her community, Haese earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UAA in 2008 and immediately began working in the field as a registered nurse at institutions including North Star Behavioral Health, State of Alaska Department of Corrections and Anchorage School District.

“Part of why I wanted to stay is I really love the community connection. Some providers avoid that because they don't want to run into patients at the store. But I like seeing people be their normal selves, and I think they appreciate knowing their providers are humans too,” she said.

In 2016, Haese broke both her arms in a fall, making parenting her two toddler sons a challenge and working as a nurse impossible. To alleviate the pain, she relied too heavily on alcohol, which inspired her return to UAA to foster addiction recovery solutions and treat mental health issues.

“Going back to school seemed intimidating and a lot of work for someone with kids. But after becoming sober and seeing people I knew die from addiction, I knew I had more to give and that I had to get back out there,” she said.

After receiving her graduate psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree in May, Haese will begin working at Eagle River Behavioral Health. In this new role, she will use her personal experience to better connect with patients and set them up for lasting success with psychiatric medical management and psychotherapy.

“Providers sometimes skirt around the issue. Having been there myself, I want to approach the subject of addiction and mental health honestly and to look out for patients to make sure we're not putting them on a bad track to just get addicted to something else,” she said.

In addition to her career, Haese hopes to continue her years of volunteering for various nursing associations by one day serving on the State of Alaska Board of Nursing. Specifically, she would like to offer guidance on interventions for nurses who have substance abuse disorders to cope with the stress of the job.

Similarly, as spring 2023 graduate student speaker, Haese wants to advise her fellow graduates on how to persist through any of life’s challenges — which is a topic Haese knows a bit about, not only as a recovering alcoholic, but also as an eye cancer survivor, which she was diagnosed with at the beginning of her last year as a graduate student.

“In life there are going to be low points, but you just have to keep going. Completing school is a journey for everyone, but it feels amazing when you're at the top of that mountain, and having that confidence under your belt really helps prepare you for the life still to come,” she said.


The Student Health and Counseling Center is here to support student well-being with preventive healthcare. Call 907-786-4050 to schedule an appointment for physical health needs or to schedule an appointment with a mental health provider.

The Psychological Services Center is also available for mental health services. The center offers individual appointments and group sessions. Call 907-786-1795 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

For employees, the ComPsych Employee Assistance Program offers free short-term counseling. Call 1-888-969-0155 to speak with a clinician.

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