Q&A with Dr. Stephanie Kehler

Monday, November 22, 2021

Stephanie Kehler, Ph.D., RN, CHSE

Before receiving both her BS and Ph.D. in Nursing, Dr. Stephanie Kehler earned a bachelor's in mechanical engineering. From 2014-2015, Dr. Kehler worked as an RN in the Intensive Care Unit at Good Samaritan Hospital, Lexington, where she provided care to critically ill adult patients. She completed her Ph.D. at UK in 2017.

Dr. Kehler's research includes women's health during pregnancy focusing on high-risk pregnancies, mental health wellness, and inflammatory response. More recently, she has added simulation as a learning method to her research portfolio. Simulation helps prepare nursing students to "think like a nurse" and equips students with a strong foundation regarding pathophysiology – processes associated with disease or injury - that serves as the base for critical thinking.

A clinical instructor, lecturer, and simulation specialist in the UK College of Nursing since 2015, Dr. Kehler is currently an instructor for PathoPharmacology courses in the undergraduate program. She is the faculty advisor for the Undergraduate Nursing Activities and Advisory Council and has received several awards and honors including becoming a Jonas Scholar. She is certified by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare as a Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society and stood as the co-chair of the Critical Care Council for 2 years.

Dr. Kehler joined the Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) team in 2019. As a part of BH WELL, she lends expertise to the development of simulated scenario trainings.

BH WELL Executive Director Dr. Zim Okoli shares, “Dr. Kehler brings to BH WELL unique aspects of learning through her expertise in simulations, mental health, and women’s health issues. Her growing program of scholarship has the potential to improve the ways in which healthcare providers deliver treatment using best practices in mental health care through innovative learning pedagogies. Our eventual goal is that mental health-seeking behavior will be a normative practice within learning environments.”

Q: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a heart surgeon. My grandpa had open heart surgery and I was fascinated with the heart and how it worked.

Q: How did you go from that to where you are now?

I am a learner at my core and various subjects have caught my interest over the years. I got interested in physics in high school and decided I wasn’t ready for the 12 years of education required to become a surgeon, so I decided on engineering. I stayed home when my kids were young and started thinking about what I could do next. That is when I found nursing. I was surprised by all the opportunities nursing has to offer. While in the nursing program, I found I was drawn to continued learning and education and followed that pathway to where I am now.

Q: How do you define success in your career?

Success to me has always been setting goals and working toward them personally and professionally. I strive to continually be challenged in my career and that is one way I grow as a person.

Q: What’s your dream collaboration/research project?

Great question. My biggest challenge has been finding that “one thing” that I am so passionate about that I am not intrigued by something else. One pattern that I have found is I am an advocate for victims of violence. I am currently working on the training to be a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). I am really excited about this venture and working to change rape culture.

Q: Why did you want to join the BH WELL team?

I was working on utilizing simulation to educate nursing staff to improve patient care and safety. I frequently included Dr. Okoli in my preparation for this education. He invited me to be part of BH WELL and I was excited to be included.

Q: What does being part of BH WELL mean to you?

Being part of this team means I am a part of a group that cares about mental health and works hard to develop evidence-based practices to work within this unique and varied population.

Q: If you had a 3-day weekend, how would you spend it?

At the beach searching for shark teeth and sea glass!


Read Dr. Kehler's blog about ending rape culture.

News contributor: Kylie Pemberton