Megan Hosey Mastalerz, Ph.D. '05

Supporting ICU Patients During Hospital Recovery and Beyond

Supporting ICU Patients During Hospital Recovery and Beyond

Megan Hosey Mastalerz, Ph.D. ’05 doesn’t want patients to put their lives on hold during a hospital stay, even the ones with critical illnesses she cares for in the ICU. As a rehabilitation psychologist, Mastalerz helps patients recover in the hospital by integrating their lives at home into her treatment plan, whether that’s using a therapy dog or finding a patient’s favorite band and hosting a pick-me-up dance party.

“My primary role is to get to know what the patient's life was like before they got sick, to think about their strengths, and to bring those to the table during recovery,” she says. “[I] help people learn new strategies for managing things like anxiety, hospital demoralization, fatigue, and getting better sleep in the hospital — all with an eye to helping people not only manage their critical illness and their hospitalization better, but also giving them the tools to live more fully once they get back to home.”

Mastalerz, who majored in psychology with minors in Spanish and art history at Scranton, works in the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. In addition to treating patients, she conducts clinical research on the effectiveness of psychological treatments in the ICU and is an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Scranton Roots

Mastalerz grew up in Elmira, NY, two hours from Scranton, and comes from a family of Royals. Her grandfather is the late Norman Hosey '59, and her dad, Michael Hosey '79, and aunt, Mary Hosey '94, also both attended the university.

“I went to a campus tour with an open mind, thinking, well, just because my family went here doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where I want to go,” she recalls. “But I quite quickly fell in love with the atmosphere. The Jesuit mission was important to me, and in addition to the sterling reputation of the Psychology Department for graduating people who were very successful, [made me want to attend].”

After graduating from Scranton, she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology and behavioral medicine at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She then trained in behavioral medicine and neuropsychology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

A Collaborative Environment

A Collaborative Environment

Mastalerz calls working in the ICU “a team sport,” and enjoys treating patients alongside nurses, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists. “[The ICU] is an awesome interdisciplinary environment, and I learned a lot about that at Scranton,” she says.

She often encounters patients experiencing “ICU delirium,” when they have difficulty distinguishing what is real and what is a dream. During the pandemic, it got even worse, she says, “because they were requiring deeper sedation, and they had less access to people around them, because of personal protective equipment and visitor restrictions. I've had patients with COVID wake up and tell me, ‘I thought that I was camping’ or ‘I thought that I was Superman.’” To help them cope, Mastalerz teaches family members how to talk to the patient about where they are.

Mastalerz says the Psychology Department at Scranton gave her strong training in research methodology, as well as a desire to support her patients.

“Spending my days working with patients and families who are in the midst of the worst days of their life is an honor and a privilege,” she says. “And, I hope I'm starting to live up to that Jesuit mission of being a woman for others.”