A Message from the President

Beth Phoenix, PhD, RN, CNS

August 2013


It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy … Hope you are all getting a chance to chillax this summer—you earned it! But don’t get so laid-back that you forget to register for APNA’s Annual conference in San Antonio. Not only can you earn up to 27 continuing education contact hours by attending the exciting conference sessions onsite (and 60+ more online afterwards!), the conference also offers opportunities to review for certification exams, network with colleagues and perhaps meet in person the mentor or mentee you’ve connected with on Mentor Match. Friday night’s fiesta will provide plenty of merriment with your new and old APNA friends!

This year’s keynote speakers will offer intriguing perspectives on how we can develop our leadership capacity to enhance emotional well-being and improve mental health care. Bestselling author Tom Rath has written on a range of topics related to human behavior, including organizational leadership and wellness. Tom co-authored the book Strengths-Based Leadership, which was very helpful to the APNA Board in analyzing our individual and collective leadership strengths and working to enhance them. Tom’s most recent book, Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes summarizes cutting-edge research on the beneficial effects of small manageable changes in health behavior. Everyone who attends the conference will receive a copy of the book, which is a user-friendly resource that we can use for health coaching and health promotion. My daughter has already loaned out my copy to her friends so I’ll be glad to get a new one!

Journalist Suzanne Gordon has long been a vocal advocate for the profession of nursing. Her publications, including From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public and When Chicken Soup Isn’t Enough: Stories of Nurses Standing Up For Themselves, Their Patients and Their Profession, have empowered nurses to advocate for ourselves and our patients. Suzanne’s recent focus on optimizing team intelligence in health care to improve patient safety is right in line with APNA’s efforts to improve safety and well-being in our workplaces, such as the Institute for Safe Environments’ current initiative to define the elements of safe healing environments and identify best practices relating to each.  

In addition to this initiative on safe environments spearheaded by the ISE, the APNA Board recently approved the formation of a new Addictions Council that will be chaired by Matt Tierney. Since concerns related to addiction have come to the Board’s attention with increasing frequency, this council is being established to provide leadership and deepen expertise within APNA on issues relating to substance use and addictive behaviors. In the past year, APNA has publicized our positions on the adoption of SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) in psychiatric nursing practice and expanding APRN prescriptive authority to include buprenorphine, and regularly communicates with government agencies about the crucial importance of psychiatric mental health nurses in the psychiatric and addictions workforce.

The APNA Board was very excited to approve a business plan for APNA’s continuing education unit to develop an educational program, APNA Transitions in Practice (ATP), to provide foundational content in psychiatric mental health nursing. Utilizing APNA members as subject matter experts, this program will provide a reliable source of education in the fundamentals of psychiatric mental health nursing for RNs across practice settings, facilitate the transition from classroom to clinical practice for new RNs working in psychiatric settings, and provide continuing education content that will contribute to meeting eligibility requirements for ANCC certification in psychiatric mental health nursing (RN-BC). Content for the ATP program will be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it reflects current best practices. The funding to develop this program will come from Board reserves set aside for new program development, so launching this much-needed program will not impact APNA’s operating budget.

APNA Member-at-Large Amy Rushton and Executive Director Nick Croce will represent APNA at a Mental Health Workforce “listening session” with HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield and SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde. Although previous listening sessions have not led to any increase in resources to develop the psychiatric mental health nursing workforce, APNA is demonstrating how a professional organization can take the initiative to improve nursing preparation, leading to greater job satisfaction, lower job turnover and increased quality of care.

APNA staff is continuing to work hard throughout these dog days of summer. Since the opening of the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace will be opening October 1, APNA has launched an Affordable Care Act resource page. A letter from Dr. Mary Wakefield, Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration, praises APNA’s leadership and applauds the creation of this valuable resource that will help our members assist our patients. 

Associate Executive Director Pat Black represented APNA at the inaugural Veterans and Military Mental Health Conference at the White House. This conference was a kick-off to a series of veteran mental health summits that will be held across the country—keep posted for more information about how to get involved!

Since this will be my last President’s Message in APNA News before I hand the torch to President-Elect Pat Cunningham, I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a moment to reminisce about my leadership journey in APNA. This year as APNA President has been the highlight of my career and I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity. Part of the reason I have been so passionate about the importance of identifying and nurturing our “hidden treasures” is my appreciation for the psychiatric nursing mavens who encouraged me. Although the APNA colleagues who have supported and challenged me to develop are too numerous to name, I’d like to share a couple of examples.

My first APNA event was a presentation by Mary Moller, whose pioneering work in psycho-education and symptom management really opened my eyes to psychiatric nursing’s unique contribution to mental health care. I continued to attend APNA conferences, I and made many wonderful friends who challenged my thinking, gave me great ideas or included me in presentations or projects.

The first time it occurred to me that I could be leadership material was when Judi Haber, who was then chair of what at the time was called APNA’s Advanced Practice Committee, encouraged me to apply to join the committee. Since I thought that only psychiatric APRN superstars could be in this group I was hesitant, but Judi explained why she thought I could make a contribution and said, “Send in your CV. You’ll be great.” Bolstered by Judi’s confidence, I joined the Advanced Practice Committee and enjoyed it so much I kept saying “yes” when asked to take on other APNA responsibilities.

Still, each time I’ve taken on a leadership role it’s taken someone else’s confidence in me to turn on the light bulb to help me see that, if I’m willing to stretch, I can do it. It’s my goal to find as many talented APNA members as I can and communicate that same confidence that, “You’ll be great.” However, in an organization that’s as full of talent as APNA, I can’t possibly find all the “hidden treasures” by myself. I hope all of you will help me—sometimes it just takes one pivotal conversation to start someone on their leadership journey.

AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC NURSES ASSOCIATION and APNA-Logoare registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as trademarks of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
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.