Diane Allen, MN, RN-BC, NEA-BC
2015 Award for Excellence in Leadership – RN

Diane Allen felt drawn to psychiatric-mental health nursing early on in her professional life. “I have to admit it was fate,” she says. “I fell in love with the people and the work…I learn and gain as much from interacting with patients and staff as they could possibly learn or gain from me.” Because of her dedication to the safety of her fellow nurses and her trailblazing leadership on APNA’s Institute for Safe Environments, Diane Allen is the recipient of this year’s Award for Excellence in Leadership – RN.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Staff and Patient Safety

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Don't be afraid to be a psychiatric nurse. People with mental illness are people who are ill. And nurses have the power, through interaction, to engage with those people and provide help.”

Favorite Disney movie:
The Lion King

Allen currently serves as the Assistant Director of Nursing at New Hampshire Hospital, a position which is well-suited to her commitment to staff and patient safety. During her tenure at NHH, Allen was critical in the development of the Staying Safe program, which is designed to decrease the incidence of violence by opening up the lines of communication and reducing the use of seclusion and restraint. Through partnering with specially trained law enforcement personnel as well as designing a formal process for addressing levels of violence that exceed staff ability, the Staying Safe program has significantly decreased the number of assaults and injuries to staff.

 “We teach staff that getting hurt is not part of the job,” Allen says. “I hope to see the day when we are able to find a way to be restraint-free. I try to assure that we use restrictive interventions only as a last resort, and that we take extra special care to assure the safety and well-being of patients who require these emergency measures.”

Allen’s dedication to safety is also reflected in her role as co-chair of the APNA Institute for Safe Environments (ISE). Kathleen Delaney, Allen’s nominator, highlights her efforts to foster a collaborative atmosphere within ISE. “Diane selected members of the ISE steering committee that were a mix of expert and novice level nurses, seeing that experienced members could cultivate and expand the ideas of newer members,” Delaney says. “Over the past two years, Diane encouraged ISE members to think ‘big’ about how inpatient psychiatric environments could create safe and healing environments.” With her leadership, the group refined the idea of the eight pillars of safe environments and organized APNA resources to better support nurses who wished to implement them. “I am extremely proud of the work that my fellow nurses have accomplished,” says Allen. “I hope that this award reflects back on them, because the credit for the real work is theirs – I am simply a guide on this journey.”

“Diane is a kind, respected leader at NHH whose door is always open,” writes Michele Moreau in one of Allen’s recommendations. “She has dedicated the last 21 years to NHH and is the driving force behind many positive changes that have improved the nursing care of our patients. Diane is truly an inspiration for our nursing staff.” Allen’s passion for her craft is clear when she speaks of her experiences. “The best part of being a psychiatric nurse is the discovery of my very own ‘superpower’ – the ability to make human connections with people that influence them in positive ways,” she says. “The relationships that we develop with people go a long way toward helping those people to understand that we are on the same team, working toward the same goals, and this helps to keep us safe from harm.”

We are thrilled to have celebrated Allen’s accomplishments at the APNA 29th Annual Conference, held October 28-31 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Even favorite Disney characters exemplify her kindhearted and generous approach to leadership. “The Disney character I identify most with is Bert the Chimney Sweep from Mary Poppins, followed by Timon from Lion King,” she says. “They try to see the good in all people and they help to bring out the best in others [which is] all that I aspire to achieve.”



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The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.