A Message from the President

APNA President Susie AdamsSusie Adams, PhD, APRN, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC, FAANP
January 2015

My family members have long chided me for “having perfect strangers start telling me their personal problems”…while waiting in line at the grocery store or asking for help from a shelf stocker at a big box store or standing at a crosswalk where a homeless person is approaching  passersby.  “What is it that you do Mom? That strangers start talking to you?” I’m sure this has happened to many of you.  What is it that makes us approachable?  Our willingness to listen? Our nonjudgmental demeanor? Our empathetic expression?  Our nonverbal messages speak louder than any words. It could be the eye contact…a slight nod…a smile….that acknowledges the presence and regard for the person waiting in line or stocking shelves or asking for spare change at a street corner. In such instances, I take the time to listen, sometimes explore what resources they’ve used, affirm their efforts, and if appropriate suggest some resources they may not have used….such as Room at the Inn for a homeless person, a support group for the exhausted older adult caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, or encouragement to see a mental health counselor at a community mental health center. 

As psychiatric-mental health nurses, we are specially trained to employ a unique set of skills that embrace a holistic approach and wellness model. These skills inform our interactions with individuals, families, and communities. With 1 in 4 Americans experiencing a mental health and/or substance use disorder in any given year, we encounter numerous people touched by these issues in our day-to-day lives, not just in our practice. This presents us with a powerful opportunity to raise awareness, change perceptions, make an impact.

My acquaintances know about my passion to provide psychotherapy and not simply diagnose and prescribe medication. They listen to me talk about clients who intentionally seek me out because I “do both counseling and can manage their medication” in the same visit. They listen to my concerns about treating the whole person – rather than fragmented care. My family sees my excitement on returning home late in the evening from a CMHC Board meeting where primary care clinic services will now be offered on-site along with mental health services—something I’ve espoused as a board member for nearly 15 years. My faculty colleagues see me greeting some of the women working in fast food restaurants we frequent near the university who have known me through my work in residential treatment programs for co-occurring disorders. These women share news about regaining custody of their children, holding down a job for the past 6 months, moving into an apartment of their own.  The genuine celebration of the successes of these women speak volumes about a life in recovery. 

In my column for the January/February issue of JAPNA (coming soon), I discuss how the most important ‘seat at the table’ we have is the one at our kitchen table, dinner table, lunchroom table...wherever we gather with friends, family, and colleagues.  I’ve just shared with you a couple of ways that I personally take “a seat at the table” to share what I do as a psych nurse. When we talk about the work we do as a psychiatric nurses and share compelling stories about the need for mental health services in our communities, we spread the concept of recovery, highlight the need for integrated health systems, and raise awareness about the life-saving care available. We help dispel the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse through our conversations about available treatments that are effective. We affirm our work and affirm the lives of those we serve when we take a seat at these tables and share what we do.

Speaking of seats at the table, don’t miss the opportunity to have a seat at one of the most important psychiatric-mental health nursing tables: The APNA Annual Conference. The Scholarly Review Committee is accepting abstracts to be considered for presentation at the Annual Conference through March 9th. I invite you to submit an abstract, to share your expertise with colleagues and to join more than 1500 of your colleagues for four days of education, collaboration, and advancement of psychiatric-mental health nursing! You can learn more and submit at www.apna.org/CallforAbstracts.


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