APNA President Mary Ann NihartAPNA News: The Psychiatric Nursing Voice  |  January 2016 Members' Corner Edition


January 2016

Dear Friends,

In APNA’s online community, Member Bridge, there was a great discussion recently on the important voice that a psychiatric-mental health nurse brings to her position, particularly when speaking up for safe and effective person-centric care. It takes determination and bravery to fight for change, to insist on bridging gaps in care, to ensure that your patients receive the high quality services they need. Overwhelmingly, members posted messages in support of their colleagues and to encourage each other to lead change by speaking up, by sharing education and through example. It was inspiring. That is the kind of leadership I am talking about when I say that ALL psychiatric-mental health nurses are leaders.

Which brings me to you. Because you are a leader. Whether it’s through using recovery-oriented language on your unit, speaking up to advocate for a patient’s needs, teaching nursing students about trauma informed care, or sharing an evidence-based best practice with a colleague, you are acting as a leader and you are bringing change to  our health care system, to lives.

I encourage you to develop your leadership skills through the use of the APNA resources that are available to you as a member. You can use APNA’s up-to-date evidence-based continuing education to form a basis for advocating for a new protocol in your setting. You can mentor colleagues through the APNA Member Bridge online community. You can present at an APNA Conference and take advantage of the training and resources that accompany that experience. There are so many options just waiting for you.

Talking Points

Nursing is the largest profession in health care.
→ We have a powerful collective voice.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses have a unique skillset and knowledge base.
→ We can use our current, evidence based knowledge and skills to advocate for change as individuals.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse actions can be extremely impactful, no matter the scale.
→ We have the potential to bring important changes to health care every day.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse leaders are not alone.
→ We are a network of like-minded colleagues who share many passions and challenges, and whose support of each other makes us stronger leaders.

For example, let's explore the APNA Champions for Smoking Cessation. Thirteen nurses applied for and received funding to implement or enhance existing tobacco cessation services using evidence-based practices, with an ultimate goal of decreasing tobacco use prevalence in the mental health population. Participants also received training and mentorship from experts in smoking cessation to help with their programs. While these projects were mostly on a small scale, they were extremely impactful. Here are a few highlights:

  • Champions Abram, Armentrout, Blacher, Bridges, and Farwick established interventions in clinical or community-based programs that had either not previously existed or were minimally present.
  • Champion Okoli used his project findings to support an application to the NIH designed to explore tailored approaches to treating tobacco dependence in those with schizophrenia.
  • Champion Vest significantly increased the number of consults to the VA’s Tobacco Treatment Team, which served nearly 1000 clients over the life of the project.
  • The champions presented their projects during a session at the APNA Annual Conference, with 55.3% of attendees indicating that they intended to make changes to their practice as a result.

In at least three ways these Champions for Smoking Cessation acted as leaders when they leveraged the APNA resources available to them. Each of them 1) led the implementation of a project in their setting, 2) led their colleagues by presenting on best practices for implementing such projects, and 3) led the evolution of culture and care delivery to decrease the use of tobacco by people with psychiatric disorders. Each action impacted many more lives of those we all serve.  This is practical, everyday leadership – you see an opportunity and you act.

Right now, one GREAT way to unleash your ‘inner leader’ is to submit an abstract for the APNA Annual Conference. You may think that writing an abstract is only for those in academia. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. No matter where you practice, you bring something to the table that your colleagues need to hear. The fact that the project summaries presented at the Annual Conference by the APNA Champions for Smoking Cessation had such an impact speaks to that. Take a look at the ongoing discussions on Member Bridge for inspiration – it’s a great way to get insight and understand what opportunities for educating colleagues are out there.

You might believe that everyone already knows everything there is to know about what you are doing, but often that is not the case at all.  In November, I presented at the 39th Annual New York State Office of Mental Health Chief Nursing Officers Educational Conference.  I stayed for the rest of the day and heard fascinating presentations from throughout New York State.  In particular, a team of two nurses and a social worker presented their work on a mobile assistance team.  Certainly many of you have mobile assistance teams in your communities, but I was struck by how this team reached out to other organizations and the police.  My “ah ha” moment was in how they established the team and I immediately approached them when they were done.  “You really should submit this presentation to our annual conference, especially since it is located so close by in Hartford!” I exclaimed.  Both of the RNs expressed their initial surprise that anyone would want to hear what they had to say.  Of course, I was insistent.  They were absolutely demonstrating the leadership we must all begin to recognize in ourselves.  I hope to see them in Hartford!

I encourage you to ‘speak up’ and submit an abstract online!  Your contributions, whether as a podium presentation or a poster, will help to build the psychiatric-mental health nursing knowledge base and expand the knowledge of your colleagues. Plus, if your abstract is submitted for presentation, you will gain access to a multitude of APNA resources and education exclusively for presenters to help them develop their presentation skills.

I look forward to seeing you grow as a leader!

Mary Ann


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