APNA Florida Chapter
2018 Award for Innovation – Chapter

For the APNA Florida Chapter, 2017 was a year of upheaval and innovation. Multiple large-scale disasters impacted their community, and chapter members witnessed firsthand the trauma that such devastation can cause. Then, they mobilized.  “We started to realize that there was a hole in the expertise of psychiatric-mental health nurses in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorders and traumas that are related to disasters,” says Lisa Burton, APNA Florida Chapter President. In response, the Chapter organized training for psychiatric-mental health nurses to address disaster mental health and raised funds to benefit the survivors of these disasters. These efforts to empower nurses to address the needs of the community in the wake of disaster earned the APNA Florida Chapter the APNA Award for Excellence in Innovation – Chapter.

“We started in August 2017 with two hurricanes: Harvey and Irma. These impacted millions of people and we saw our own community destroyed – the loss of lives, property, and the palpable fear were a harrowing experience,” says Lisa. “We were drawn to disaster preparation after this.” The Chapter centered their annual conference on the theme of disaster preparation. They worked with the American Red Cross to present Psychological First Aid: Disaster Mental Health Training. This preconference session encouraged attendees to use their psychiatric-mental health nursing perspective as they responded to crisis. “This training was a way of encouraging our members to be active in volunteering in the community,” says Diane Esposito, APNA Florida Chapter Member-at-Large.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Community Outreach; Disaster Mental Health

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Be interdisciplinary – recognize that we are part of every discussion that affects the health and well-being of every patient."

How They Make Every Day Extraordinary:
"On our chapter retreat, we brainstorm for day and a half. It helps us realize where we want to be and helps us set the tone for each day."

The chapter also decided to feature the APNA Competency Based Training for Suicide Prevention as one of their preconference options. “We like to use our annual conference as an opportunity to recognize what our mental health nursing task force needs,” says Lisa. “We had the opportunity from APNA national to host the suicide competency trainings, so we decided to put the two together.”

The APNA Florida Chapter usually uses their conference as a fundraising opportunity for chapter scholarships and activities; however, while planning the nature of this fundraiser, the community was hit with another tragedy. A school shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the state was left reeling. “We decided to raise the bar in terms of how our chapter can contribute to the community at large and to our state and contribute to the National Alliance on Mental Illness [because] NAMI had a program offering free mental health counseling to victims of the Stoneman Douglas tragedy,” says Lisa.

The Chapter Board organized a silent auction by reaching out to members of the hospitality industry for donations. Donated items included hotel vacation packages, beach umbrellas and chairs, and even tickets to the musical Hamilton. “It was an opportunity to give our nurses some time for relaxation with things that they don’t usually afford themselves,” says Lisa. The results surpassed the Chapter’s most ambitious fundraising goals: they raised $4,000 for NAMI’s free trauma counseling program. The Chapter wants to share these successes with other chapters: “Engaging our members in philanthropic and community volunteerism through active engagement in these activities is a model that other APNA chapters can easily implement,” says Diane.

When she reflects on what the APNA Florida Chapter accomplished this year, Lisa says, “We did not expect these disasters when we started, but when Florida experienced it directly, we were ready to respond. With disaster mental health services, how can psychiatric-mental health nurses not be leaders?” Their innovative work led to a concrete difference within their community, and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments at the APNA 32nd Annual Conference.

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