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

14 Years of Leadership in Applying the Science to Psychopharmacologic Nursing Practice


Brenda asks her PMH-APRN about a new medication she noticed in advertising that claims the drug causes less weight gain and no sexual side effects. She wants to know if this is true. “I feel so much better emotionally but I hate all the weight. I avoid mirrors and cameras. It would be a miracle if I could lose weight and enjoy my relationship with my husband again. Should I try it? I don’t want to lose what I have gained.”

Daniel has taken a number of different drugs for depression. None have relieved all of his symptoms. Recently, a friend of Daniel’s had genetic testing during his evaluation for treatment of depression. He reported to Daniel that the doctor he saw told him it would help with medication selection. Daniel comes to your office confused, “Why have you not tested for these genetic enzymes?”

Trevor refuses to give up his marijuana use. He states “the physician, who prescribe it, says my ADHD will get better and I think it helps me focus.” 

Psychiatric-Mental Health nurses are increasingly engaged with consumers who come to their appointments prepared with information gained from a variety of sources.  Using true shared decision-making and other recovery based principles in treatment, PMH-APRNs must have the very latest evidence based information at their fingertips and the ability to translate that information into an open and easily understandable discussion with the individuals they serve. Journals and web-based training can provide much of the core information, but nothing replaces the opportunity to ask questions and have stimulating conversation with colleagues responding to the same concerns in their practice. Recently, a relatively new NP told me “I learned so much while obtaining my MSN. Yet, until I was actually in practice and then listening to Dr. Limandri (a regular presenter at the APNA Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute) discuss symptoms, side effects, and neurotransmitters, I did not put it all together. A light bulb really went on. I realize now, having these opportunities to learn with other practicing NPs changed everything.”

Psychopharmacology as a treatment tool is dynamic. As science evolves, so does the need for education that addresses how advancements apply to psychiatric-mental health nursing practice. Bridging the gap between science and practice is a constant pursuit for us – and one well worth it - the use of research evidence in our practice helps produce high quality care with better outcomes for those we serve.

For the past 14 years, APNA has taken the lead in striving to bridge the science-practice gap in psychopharmacology specifically for psychiatric-mental health nurses. As a psychopharmacology conference planned for nurses by nurses, the APNA Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute (CPI) has solidified its reputation as the preferred event for psychopharmacology updates that are informed by nursing theory and put in the context of a demanding and ever-changing health care environment.

Since 2007, CPI attendance has grown by more than 161%. What began as a small gathering of advanced practice psychiatric-mental health nurses has evolved into a widely recognized event which draws more than 500 psychiatric-mental health nurses from all levels of practice each year. Over the past four years, an average of 92% of attendees have indicated that CPI content increased their knowledge, skills, and/or judgement related to their practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing. CPI’s reach extends to online as well: Almost 16,000 orders of CPI session recordings have been made since they became available in the APNA eLearning Center.

APNA 14th Annual Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute
"The program consistently is relevant, applicable, and cutting edge, which in turn keeps us at the forefront of the psychiatric-mental health field."

The bulk of the credit for this growth goes to the psychiatric-mental health nurses who plan the program each year, the CPI Program Committee. This year’s committee is chaired is Julie Carbaray, PhD, APN, BC and includes Kim Cox, MSN, RN, CNS; CDR Joseph M. Holshoe, MSN, PMHNP-BC; Barbara Limandri, DNSc, RN, PMHCNS-BC; Christian Teter, PharmD, BCPP (Consultant); Georgia Stevens, PhD, APRN, PMHCNS, BC; Barbara Jones Warren, PhD, PMHCNS-BC. These psychopharmacology content experts use exceptional vision and leadership to ensure a quality program that meets our needs, assimilating their expertise, feedback from past attendees, and environmental scans into their content strategy. They combine functioning in present practice realities with an eye to the future and exciting scientific developments are coming down the pipeline. This means that the program consistently is relevant, applicable, and cutting edge, which in turn keeps us at the forefront of the psychiatric-mental health field.

For example, with the shift in educational preparation and focus on lifespan, the committee has been mindful of meeting the needs of nurses currently prescribing or managing medications, as well as those who are coming out of school with a broader focus. The committee’s partnership with the National Institute of Health means that each year the CPI faculty includes scientists with their fingers on the pulse of the latest developments in neuroscience and psychopharmacology.  

Most importantly, because CPI is planned by psychiatric-mental health NURSES, the program always emphasizes the holistic nature of our profession. We know it is crucial to address more than just the illness when prescribing or managing psychiatric medications.  For us, it is about more than what goes on the prescription pad - it is about understanding the underlying ‘how things work’ (pharmacokinetics) and how treatments fit into the reality of our patients’ lives. Paying attention to this complex interplay of factors is what makes you a better caregiver, what gives you a better understanding of implications of prescribing in the real world.

It is exciting and gratifying to see how our members have used their expertise to ensure that year after year, psychiatric-mental health nurses have access to psychopharmacology education that is specifically targeted to their needs as nurses. This year is no exception. I hope to see you at this year’s Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, June 9-12. The program, which offers up to 20.5 continuing education contact hours in psychopharmacology is superb - from Keynotes by national-renowned researchers to sessions (many presented by nurses themselves) that explore hot topics like opioids and heroin use, pharmacological management in integrated care, and treatment of transgender and gender expressive youth. Register by May 16th to save $75!

Mary Ann


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