Highlights from the 25th Annual Conference: Psych Nurses Have More Fun

 - Written by Jaclyn Engelsher, APRN, DOM

This was my second year attending the American Psychiatric Nurses Association Annual Conference, and the experience again renewed my enthusiasm for live continuing education events. There were plenty of excellent speakers, exhibition (sales) booths, and poster presentations, but that is not what makes this a must-do yearly event. It is the camaraderie within the profession and the fact psych-nurses know the importance of having a good time. Here are a few of my personal highlights.

Venue: Disneyland Hotel
An excellent location to blend education and fun. Although the place was under construction and wi-fi was a bit spotty, the staff managed to make it magical. We had an awesome renovated room in adventure tower with a view of the evening fireworks. Since we were not run ragged with sessions and the conference ended early on Saturday, there was plenty of time to explore downtown Disney and the parks without the need for car rental or long monorail/bus rides. There were excellent places to eat (Napa Rose for high-brow, Trader Sam's for sips and apps), wonderful spa (ask for Carlos), and a fine collection on shops with live music until 10 or later every night. There were plenty of pens and pads along with a good selection of breakfast and boxed lunch choices. And Pluto, of course!

Inspiration: Jean Watson
Her presentation Caring Science and Psychiatric Nursing: Relationship and Emergence of Human Spirit included a singing bowl meditation and an honest discussion on how PMH nurses can use authenticity, interconnectedness, and belonging as instruments of healing.  While speaking on esoteric topics is commonplace in my CAM conferences, I was delighted her powerful delivery made it into an area that does not like to stray far from evidenced-based practice. "Being" is not a concept easily researched through science!  Jean was referred to often throughout the rest of the conference - I gave her a nod in my presentation on the role social networking plays in world connectedness - and she had a huge line of folks waiting to shake her hand following her talk. I studied her middle-range theory of human caring in my MSN program, but there is nothing like a personal illustration by the creator to bring life to a concept that seems more simple and obvious on paper than it does in clinical practice. Watson Caring Science Institute

Mentorship: Pat Cunningham
My advisor won this year' award for excellence in practice and we whooped it up when they presented her award. What is amazing about Pat from a student perspective is her ability to individually listen to each of us, evoke the best practice and thought out of ourselves, and to use that blunt humor so characteristic of the best psych nurses. I imagine her patients feel the same way!

Trend: Integrative Therapies
Last year there were a few posters that addressed CAM use by nurses and I was excited, but this year saw an explosion! Mindfulness training, supplement and nutrition use, and schools of nursing integrating various CAM certifications as part of their psych-np programs are just some of the new blends of therapies to benefit our patients.  I found out one of my current teachers has been using hypnotherapy with some of her pediatric clients and a former psychiatrist colleague has been instrumental in establishing integrative practices in the Long Beach VA's mental-health program. I am excited that the future may hold a number of niches I fit into without having to carve them out on my own. There may be opportunities to expand NP ability to practice certain CAM therapies as part of their scope of practice similarly to how MDs already have, and I would love to be a part of making that happen.
  
Coolest Product: Mindability
This product was cool for 2 reasons. First, all the promo literature was on a flash drive that I was able to use to store my presentation when I could not find mine (it resurfaced in my backpack yesterday). Second, the rep gave me a fun wallet card targeted to control emotional reactions. It included some great phrases such as:

    "If I'm reading this, it means I'm more upset than is good for me."
    "However I'm feeling is exaggerated"
    "Whatever I am thinking is distorted."
    "Whatever I'm thinking about saying or doing, DON'T, until I calm down."

If reality TV stars had these in their pockets, there would be no reality TV stars! In all seriousness, this brought out a new idea for PTSD group I hope to use during clinical soon.

International Perspective: Holland
While a group of use were relaxing by the pool area in between sessions, a fellow nurse from Holland decided to sit and chat with us. I found it interesting that while the US is trying to establish mental health parity, in Holland, they have decided those with mental illness will now have to pay over-and-above the standardized government health insurance rate for supplemental coverage if they want psychiatric services. We also had an interesting conversation about different nursing roles and marijuana bars.

Obligatory Gala: California Dreamin'
Hosted on Adventure lawn, the Friday night reception was included in the conference registration rather than having to purchase separately. An excellent buffet and cash bar (boo!) was well staffed, and the all-dentist band made for a wild evening. The dance floor was defiantly too small for this crew as all-ages crowded it and boogied down. Later we went to my room for a wine tasting wind down that resulted in one of my classmates deciding to commit to the ascot. Pittsburgh better watch out in 2012!

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.