Tari DilksSattaria "Tari" Dilks, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC, FAANP
2017 Award for Excellence in Education

"Psychiatric nursing at all levels is more than learning skills, it is learning how to journey with people who often have no voice.” These words reflect Sattaria “Tari” Dilks’ guiding strategy for educating future nurses. “It is important to know that it is not what we tell them to do to fix the issues, it is about allowing them to decide their personal paths with our support… There are many roads that can be taken to help our patients and it requires enormous flexibility and creativity to be a psychiatric nurse.” To that end, Tari has designed a multifaceted and engaging curriculum that provides educational opportunities to students across her home state of Louisiana. Tari is the 2017 recipient of the APNA Award for Excellence in Education.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
PMH Graduate Nursing Education

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“It is not what we tell [patients] to do to fix the issues, it is about allowing them to decide their personal paths with our support and walk with them for a part of their journey.”

Psych Nursing Light Bulb Moment:
“When I saw the difference I was able to make with the next generation of nurses, I knew that I was home in this setting.”

A psychiatric-mental health nursing educator for over 12 years, Tari currently works as professor and co-coordinator of graduate nursing at McNeese State University. She also serves as the Director of the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Graduate Program collaboratively offered through McNeese State University and the Intercollegiate Consortium, a collection of four universities in south Louisiana (ICMSN). Tari built this program to encourage Masters and post-graduate APRN students to pursue psychiatric-mental health nursing.  “It has grown from a charter class of two students to approximately thirty students a year between three of the four [participating] universities,” she says of the program. “The most rewarding thing…is the number of students that we have graduated over the years who are helping to fill the tremendous need for psychiatric advanced practice nursing in Louisiana and Texas.”

Tari began work on the development of this program when faced with regional challenges with regards to psychiatric-mental health APRN roles. Due to a limited number of psychiatric-mental health nurses on McNeese State’s faculty as well as its regional status, a creative solution was needed to deliver the needed education to students across the state as part of the intercollegiate program. “It was necessary to develop out of the box ideas on how we could offer experiences to our students and that instructors could provide supervision and guidance for the individual student,” she says. Tari decided to use a grant to design and implement web-based simulation experiences, making these experiences more accessible while still providing high quality training to participants in the program. “Dr. Dilks is a thought leader who worked tirelessly to develop an innovative PMHNP curriculum that provides educational opportunities to students in all parts of the state,” says Dawn Vanderhoef in her recommendation. “The ability to practice and demonstrate progression of psychotherapy skills and techniques while getting both peer and instructor feedback using video conferencing demonstrates Dr. Dilks’ commitment to excellence and innovation.”

As an educator, Tari strives to motivate and mentor her students through her courses and beyond. “In testimony to [Dr. Dilks’] capacity to engage others in life-long learning, many of her former students have pursued practice doctorates in nursing,” says Patricia Cunningham, who nominated Tari for this award. “These students are expanding the boundaries of traditional models of practice in their region to meet the mental health needs of the military and their families, as well as other underserved populations.” These mentoring connections affirm Tari’s dedication to psychiatric-mental health nursing. “I wasn't sure that [psychiatric-mental health nursing education] was what I was meant to be doing,” she says, “but when I saw the difference I was able to make with the next generation of nurses, I knew that I was home in this setting. I have a deep love of psychiatric nursing at all levels and have been blessed to have been able to find a medium to pass on the knowledge and assist in growing the next generation.”

For her work to inspire the next generation of psychiatric-mental health nurses, Tari will be honored at the APNA 31st Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. We look forward to celebrating her innovative teaching techniques.

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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.