2022 APNA Award for Excellence in Practice – RN
Sarret Seng, RN, BSN, BA
“When you start to really see positive changes in your patients, it’s incredibly satisfying,” declares Sarret Seng. She taps into a love of behavioral neuroscience in her career as a nurse researcher to directly improve patient outcomes.
As an RN working to support individuals with severe and persistent mental illness, Seng noticed that more than half were tobacco users. Despite tobacco use being prohibited at most inpatient facilities, little is done to address tobacco addiction during hospitalization or after discharge. This can negatively impact treatment and cause agitation for individuals who now must contend with the side effects of tobacco withdrawal on top of working to address the symptoms of their mental illness. She advises,
“Take the time to observe the ways treatment can be better for patients. Help tear down barriers to more effective treatment.”
Since evidence indicated that supporting a patient with tobacco treatment may improve medication efficacy and reduces agitation, she stepped forward as a graduate research assistant with University of Kentucky’s Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BHWELL) team to help design and implement programs to enhance patient engagement in tobacco cessation and strengthen treatment by providers.
Seng assisted in developing educational resource materials tailored for persons with mental illness that aimed to enhance tobacco treatment. These initiatives were instrumental in improving the tobacco treatment services at her institution and have now been expanded to several other inpatient facilities, community mental health centers, and outpatient treatment facilities throughout Kentucky.
In addition to educating patients, Seng is working with the BHWELL team to educate fellow providers, encouraging them to understand the latest evidence-based recommendations about smoking cessation and to move away from previously held beliefs about tobacco use in this population. She helped to create and evaluate simulated scenario treatment trainings to help providers in other facilities both understand the importance of offering tobacco treatment to their patients, and to prepare providers to deliver effective tobacco treatment.
Thanks to her and the BHWELL team’s efforts, more than 30 new tobacco treatment specialists have been trained throughout mental health outpatient facilities in Kentucky. Seng will continue to survey other mental health facilities to assess their tobacco policies and their need for additional resources, education, and training.
Seng is pursuing her doctorate in nursing at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing with a focus on psychosocial interventions to improve engagement in health-promoting behaviors among people living with severe and persistent mental illness. She’ll seek to address areas of cognitive deficit for individuals and to understand the cognitive differences among those who do and do not use tobacco, to help providers better understand how to address those differences. She works on the behavioral health unit at University of Kentucky’s Good Samaritan Hospital.
Seng is active with APNA and was selected as an APNA Board of Directors Student Scholar in 2018. In 2019, she supported the APNA Kentucky Chapter in advancing an important program to provide substance use awareness and education within the community along with an effort to provide educational activities to enhance the psychopharmacological knowledge of nurses in the state. That year, the APNA Kentucky Chapter won the APNA Award for Innovation. She is now serving as the chapter’s President-elect.