When Jenny Kleinert received an email notifying her she was the recipient of a statewide nursing award, she first thought it was a joke.
“I kind of thought someone was punking me,” she said. “Now, I’m very humbled by it. I still don’t know exactly which people took the time to write something (for the nomination).”
Kleinert, a 2000 graduate of Monona Grove High School, is the 2016 recipient of the Psychiatric Nurse of the Year award from the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
According to the chapter’s website, the award recognizes exceptional psychiatric nurses for their demonstrated vision, perseverance, dedication, innovation and leadership.
“Jennifer Kleinert is truly dedicated to the de-stigmatization and quality treatment of individuals and families requiring mental health services, and shares her expertise with peers as an expert mentor to students and nurse colleagues,” the website notes.
Kleinert is the lead nurse at Mercy Options Behavioral Health in Janesville.
“Jennifer is a strong leader and inspiration to the behavioral health department management team,” said Lisa Usgaard, director of Mercy Options Behavioral Health. “She is diligent in advocating for her patients and truly dedicated to the destigmatization and quality treatment of individuals and families requiring mental health services. Her heart and determination to deliver care the right way, is something to behold. I, as well as her peers, value her energy, hard work and spirit that she brings to a sometimes difficult work each day.”
As for Kleinert, she said that in her early adult years, she wasn’t sure what she wanted for a career.
“I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do when I grew up,” she said.
Kleinert received a bachelor’s degree in social work from UW-Eau Claire and worked in that profession briefly before enrolling in the nursing program at Herzing University in Madison. Months after graduating in 2009 she began work at Mercy Hospital.
“I pretty much knew I wanted to do this type of nursing when I was school,” she said. “When I started, I was a direct care nurse, distributing medication, working one-on-one and developing care plans. In 2012, I became the lead nurse in the unit.”
She supervises a staff of about two dozen but still helps out occasionally on the floor of the 12-bed unit.
Kleinert’s parents, Gene and Nancy Kleinert, still live in Monona, and both said they couldn’t be more proud of their daughter.
“We were in awe when the award was announced,” Nancy Kleinert said. “We knew she was good, but we didn’t know she was that good.”
Jenny Kleinert said her desire to work in the psychiatric field stemmed from her childhood and her recollections of her maternal grandmother, a patient at Badger Prairie Health Care Center in Verona.
“It was very disheartening growing up and seeing my older family members visiting her,” she said. “They knew her before she was there, but I only knew her then.”
Working in a psychiatric unit can be trying at times, Kleinert acknowledged.
“Sometimes I need to remind myself why I do this,” she said. “I wear a ring with my grandmother’s birthstone in it, so I can always look at that to help. It’s a reminder of why I do what I do.”