APNA Kentucky Chapter
2019 Award for Innovation – Chapter

APNA Kentucky Chapter  “In South Asia, we have a parable,” says APNA Kentucky Chapter Immediate Past President Sooksai Kaewbua. “Five blind men try to understand what an elephant is like by touching various parts of its body. The moral is that each man’s perspective gives him one piece of the puzzle, but they have to put the different pieces together to form a more complete understanding. However, the parable fails to recognize that it is still excluding perhaps the most important puzzle piece of all: the perspective of the elephant itself. By including a patient as a speaker at each of our conferences, we have ensured that we are not neglecting our patients’ critical perspectives.” For their work to ensure all voices of care are heard, the APNA Kentucky Chapter is the recipient of the APNA Award for Innovation – Chapter.

When looking at continuing education and professional development opportunities for nurses, Sooksai noticed a trend. “Most of the conferences primarily featured speakers who were providers and/or researchers,” she explains. In response, the APNA Kentucky Chapter decided to try something new for their 2018 conference so that it reflected the diversity of perspectives in modern healthcare. The conference focused on trauma, so the Chapter sought out voices that would present different facets of trauma-informed care. “We all know that each mental health issue is a complex topic, so to understand it better, we wanted to explore it from many different perspectives,” says Sooksai. “We identified and recruited some less obvious speakers: a state representative, a student who created a club to help fellow refugees cope with trauma, and others.” The conference featured presentations from healthcare professionals, governmental regulators, and patients with lived experience.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Diverse perspectives and inclusivity

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Engage in lifelong learning and constant networking.”

How They Connect:
“Getting involved in everything [we] can!”

Attendees took notice of the innovative approach: the Chapter saw registration for their conference double as compared to the previous year, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “By inviting speakers with various specialties, our psychiatric-mental health nurses gained more insight into what patients with mental illness endure on their journey to wellness,” says Sarret Seng, APNA Kentucky Chapter Treasurer. “Hearing speakers from multiple scopes of practice gives our nurses the ability to connect resources to their patients.”

After the success of their 2018 conference, the Chapter took a similar approach this year. “Our conference sought to address the substance use epidemic that disproportionately impacts people with mental illness,” says Sarret. “We [were able to present] a pharmacologist’s view on managing substance use disorder, a professor of neuroscience who discussed how nurses can affect neural pathways involved in addiction, and someone who overcame addiction and is now using his experience to assist others in their battle with substance use disorders.” Once again, the Chapter saw an increase in attendance and received feedback that the conference addressed the needs of attendees. “Each perspective gives us one more piece of the puzzle that we need to understand the issue and better serve our patients,” says Sooksai.

The APNA Kentucky Chapter also seeks diverse perspectives through community participation. “During events like the Lexington DiverCity Festival and Lexington Pride Festival, our Chapter actively engaged with community members, including people with mental illnesses, their friends and family, and the public at large,” says Sarret. “All these efforts contribute to helping the mental health and wellness of our community.”

With community involvement and diverse voices representation, the APNA Kentucky Chapter hopes to model an inclusive environment for learning and care. Their future goals reflect the spirit of inclusivity. Says Sooksai, “We strongly encourage all current and future psychiatric-mental health nurses to engage in lifelong learning and constant networking, [so] we want to have more informal events to allow members to get to know each other, share ideas, and network.” At the APNA 33rd Annual Conference, members of the APNA Kentucky Chapter will be doing just that as their achievements are celebrated.

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