APNA President Mary Ann NihartAPNA News: The Psychiatric Nursing Voice  |  November 2015 Members' Corner Edition


November 2015

Dear Friends,

As psychiatric-mental health nurses, we are every day leaders. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” I believe that psychiatric-mental health nurses strive to do that each day through the art and science of our recovery-oriented practice. We are bringers of hope and staunch advocates for effecting change. We are leaders because we are psychiatric-mental health nurses.

APNA President Nihart’s Talking Points
November Edition


Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses are leaders who effect change as:

Professionals – practitioners, instructors, scientists, members of organizations

Colleagues – role models, mentors

Individuals – voters, community members, family members


Strategies to tap into your inner leader:

  • Find your passion
  • Take the initiative to collaborate
  • Invest in yourself through education
  • Stay true to your moral compass
  • Treat everyone with respect
  • Be proactive
  • Always do what’s next

Leadership is one of the core standards of our practice (Standard 12 of our Scope and Standards of Practice) and the 2010 Institute of Medicine Report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change to Advance Health, further cements our role as leaders in mental health policy and program development. Look at psychiatric-mental health nursing 20 years ago compared to where we are now: we have made incredible progress – which we should celebrate! – but there is also much work still to be done. How do we each tap into our leadership potential to make an impact? All of us have a ‘tipping point’, a point where something moves us at our core and we are compelled to act, to lead.

We are working in a nation where approximately 7.9 million U.S. adults have severe mental illness in a given year and about 3.9 million of those persons do not receive treatment (National Institute of Mental Health, 2010). From 2005 to 2010 hospital beds decreased by 14% and the per capita state psychiatric bed population was about 14 beds per 100,000 (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2012). We are seeing overcrowding in emergency departments and that increasingly, mental health treatment involves jails and prisons.

Now is the time for us to unleash our inner leaders to help transform the mental health care delivery system to meet the needs of the underserved. Real change is a process that requires constant attention and there are many paths that each of us can chose to help effect that change. As psychiatric-mental health nurses, we play a key role in interdisciplinary teams to articulate and employ new paradigms of care and treatment. APNA provides us with an organizational structure and unifying voice to dialogue on pressing issues, disseminate education, raise awareness, and impact health care both in our day-to-day interactions and on a national level.

My message is a call to partnership: APNA’s ability to cultivate contacts and relationships on a large scale, combined with the psychiatric-mental health expertise of you, our members, can become the ‘rising tide that lifts all boats’. Take for example APNA’s recent commitment to the White House effort to address the opioid misuse and overdose. By accessing our member experts in substance use and addictions to create free education for one of the largest groups of caregivers in the nation, we will be able to impact a tragic national epidemic.

Programs like this, the APNA Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Essential Competencies for Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk, and the APNA Transitions in Practice Certificate Program are the result of an organization leading the way to advance the profession and ultimately the wellness of those we serve. But where does that ability for an organization to lead come from? It comes from individuals who step up to define APNA as volunteer leaders. These volunteers lead through collaboration in writing position papers, developing education, and crafting materials that move the needle. They help us speak with a unified voice as we articulate how psychiatric-mental health nurses lead the way in evolving mental health care to meet the needs of our population. I invite you to step up – join a council or institute, participate in online discussions, submit an abstract for the conference…. Use our position papers as talking points at every table at which you sit – starting with your kitchen table where you can hone your skills in speaking about issues important to psychiatric-mental health nursing to people with whom you are most comfortable.

Throughout the coming year I’ll be focusing on psychiatric-mental health nurses as every day leaders, culminating with the APNA 30th Annual Conference in Hartford Connecticut. I begin my APNA Presidency ready and excited to lead the charge in building on the great strides our organization has made under the leadership of the presidents that proceed me. Through their vision APNA has become a unifying voice for psychiatric-mental health nursing, raising the visibility of the important work that psychiatric-mental health nurses do each day and providing us with a community for mentorship, education, and professional growth. 

Mary Ann


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