Heike Barnett, BSN, RN
2016 Award for Excellence in Practice - RN

Heike Barnett is driven by curiosity and a commitment to recovery. “While I have also worked in oncology, acute dialysis, and other medical settings, I always return to mental health nursing,” she says. “Building and maintaining a therapeutic relationship with my patients is something I learned in psychiatric-mental health nursing and it has served me well no matter where I have worked. Learning about the art and science of psychiatric-mental health nursing intrigues me and that curiosity seems to grow the more I learn.” For her dedication to developing her craft and commitment to individuals with serious mental illness, Heike Barnett is the recipient of this year’s Award for Excellence in Practice – RN.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Recovery-oriented practice

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“You want to look for a mentor who is passionate about psychiatric-mental health nursing and learn with and from them.”

Favorite Color:
Orange ("I like bright, cheerful colors.")

Barnett currently works as the Program Chief Nurse for the Psychosocial Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. The program provides care to those with chronic mental illness, particularly those with schizophrenia and psychosis. The care at the center incorporates rehabilitation and re-education with the goal of ultimately discharging individuals to the least-restrictive community setting. The center’s focus aligns well with Barnett’s mission: sharing a recovery-oriented model of practice to ensure high quality care with positive outcomes. In her current role, Barnett demonstrates energy, dedication, and enthusiasm to supporting those with serious mental illness in their journey to recovery. “Ms. Barnett has a deep concern and passion for the care of the seriously mentally ill and if that care contributes to their recovery,” says Michael Rice, who nominated Barnett for this award. “She consistently demonstrates effective nursing practice toward the achievement of optimal clinical outcomes for patients, families, and populations.”

Barnett found a vehicle for helping to spread the recovery-oriented model when she attended a Recovery to Practice Facilitator Training through APNA. “That class made a significant difference in my practice and in my drive to share the model with others,” she says. “Getting practical tools and tips on how to apply the concept in practice was a game changer for me.” The APNA Recovery to Practice (RTP) program is a 6-module course that facilitates change in psychiatric-mental health nursing practice through the discussion of recovery knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The program aligns with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) national initiative and The Joint Commission's standard on patient-centered communication. Barnett is now trained to facilitate this interactive group learning activity to any professionals looking to integrate recovery-oriented practices into the care they provide to persons with mental illness.

Barnett’s commitment to transforming psychiatric-mental health nursing through recovery-oriented practice carried through to her efforts to revitalize the APNA Colorado Chapter, where she is currently a member of the chapter board.  Since 2013, her organizational and leadership skills have enabled the chapter to provide a multitude of chapter workshops on recovery for individuals with serious mental illness. To date, Barnett has orchestrated three Recovery to Practice conferences for nurses and other health professions, as well as several other chapter events to promote recovery principles and chapter unity. “As a board member, [Heike] has been a stabilizing force,” says Cara Dasher, one of Barnett’s nominators. “She has set up meeting spaces, taken minutes, and connected members and speakers.” Barnett’s efforts have contributed to the success of the Colorado Chapter, which is the 2016 recipient of the APNA Award for Innovation – Chapter.

Barnett is also a dedicated advocate of psychiatric-mental health nursing, pursuing mentorship opportunities to share her knowledge with other nurses. When looking to the future, Barnett’s message to psychiatric-mental health nurses is to seek out the expertise of the nursing community. “Look for a mentor who is passionate about psychiatric-mental health nursing and learn with and from them,” she says. “I had such mentors throughout my nursing journey and they have made a tremendous difference for me and my practice.” For her efforts to advance psychiatric-mental health nursing and promote recovery-oriented care, we look forward to celebrating with Barnett at the APNA 30th Annual Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, this October.

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The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.