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2021 APNA Award for Excellence in Practice – RN

Asneth Thomas-Rowe, BSN, RN-BC

Inspired by her son’s military service, Asneth Thomas-Rowe transformed her career to make a lasting positive impact for veterans, a population of patients now close to her heart.

Asneth received her PMH nursing education and began to practice in her home country of Jamaica. She then moved to the United States, settling in Florida where she continued to practice and advance her education. Her career flourished, but Asneth was driven to do more.

Asneth’s son, an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan, put his life on the line to protect America. His career of service to his country inspired a career change for Asneth.

Asneth shares “I started working at the Miami VA after my son returned from his second tour in Afghanistan. I figured this was the only way I could give back to those who had served for me.”

Approaching veterans with great respect, understanding, and curiosity, Asneth creates safe spaces for patients and colleagues alike while reinforcing the key recovery principles of considerate and holistic care. She spent two years supporting veterans in the Psychosocial, Substance Abuse and PTSD residential units at the Miami VA, leveraging her many prior years of nursing experience and elevating day-to-day interactions there with her truly caring demeanor.

Following her two years on the residential unit, Asneth transferred to the Quality Management department of the VA to serve as the Quality Management Specialist for Mental Health –giving her an opportunity to focus on another side of care for veterans.

Working in Quality Management, Asneth’s actions have further improved several ingrained processes and standards of care at the Miami VA. She uncovered deficiencies in alcohol use assessment tools and enacted changes that significantly improved care for veterans struggling with substance or alcohol use. She developed two new assessment tools — one for nutrition screening and one for exploitation screening – advocating for PMH nurses to conduct these assessments mindful of their sensitive nature.

Asneth developed practice changes to better support veterans on the inpatient unit needing suicide precautions – recognizing the outdated language of “suicide observation” and partnering with the nurse manager to vet the changes to multidisciplinary leadership and ultimately adjust policy, templates, and re-educate staff.

She has also made a lasting impact on accreditation, serving as a CARF liaison for all five of the certified programs of the Miami VA. Asneth supports others in understanding the expectations and actions to meet stringent accreditation standards. She works to develop action plans and
responses to address JC findings – reviewing data, compiling extensive reports and outlining mitigation plans.

By implementing these changes, Asneth has directly improved care at the VA, creating a positive effect for the patients now and for years to come.

Asneth currently serves as Nurse Manager for Acute Inpatient Mental Health at the Miami VA supervising the administrative and clinical management for a unit of 19 veterans and 32 staff – continuing her dedication to enhancing care for veterans.

Asneth shares, “Even though the job as a Nurse Manager can be very daunting at times, I relish the opportunity to encourage and motivate my staff to make positive changes and to become the best that they can be. A psychiatric nurse must have a very strong mental aptitude to be able to cope with a job that involves both physical and mental demands, while also being flexible and able to adapt quickly to unpredictable situations.”

As a vocal advocate for veteran rights and PMH nurse equity, Asneth consistently demonstrates the skills she wants exemplified by the staff she leads – skillfully role-modeling both nursing excellence and the importance of humanity. Colleagues agree she is a uniquely skilled mentor infusing her calm and nurturing spirit into every interaction.

“This award gives me a great sense of achievement and recognition. It makes me so proud to realize that just by doing my job to the best of my ability, I have been recognized by my peers and rewarded with this national honor. It is the icing on the cake of my 34 years of psychiatric nursing.”