August 2014

A Message from the President
Patricia D. Cunningham, DNSc, APRN, BC
August 2014

Dear Friends,

In this, my final President’s Message, I would like to revisit several of the themes that I have examined over the past year.  All have to do with articulating and celebrating the unique knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that psychiatric-mental health nurses bring to the table, as well as exploring how we can best make use of these KSAs as healthcare evolves:

  1. We have the knowledge, skills and abilities to provide mental health care to those who need it...When we have the tools that enable us to provide the best possible care, we can meet the needs of many different populations. We are not limited to a single setting; we are blazing new frontiers in communities across the country! (October 2013)
    Since I wrote this last October, I have seen so many instances of how true this is – the myriad of settings, populations, and skillsets that I see covered in the discussions on Member Bridge each day are a testament to that. With the release of the 2014 edition of our Scope and Standards of Practice (with online access as a part of APNA membership!), we now have one more valuable tool that helps us articulate our knowledge, skills, and abilities to others, which in turn helps us position ourselves to meet the mental health needs of our respective communities.
  2. Connecting is what we strive to do every day in our work and I’m willing to bet that it is a large part of the reason why most of us chose this profession.... Undoubtedly we value connecting with each other highly! (December 2013)
    I believe that being a part of a community of professionals that shares my commitment to mental health is one of the most rewarding aspects of membership. As we explore new technologies, theories, and opportunities for engaging with consumers to meet their mental health needs, I hope that we will continue to share what we learn with each other through online discussion, through presentations at APNA conferences, and through collaboration on APNA councils. Exciting and essential work such as updating the APNA Seclusion and Restraint Standards of Practice, creating a Recovery to Practice Curriculum for inpatient nurses, or developing suicide assessment competencies for inpatient psychiatric RNs is wholly dependent upon members’ willingness to connect and share their expertise.
  3. We have an understanding of patients’ physiological needs and their psychosocial needs. Pair that with our skills in interpersonal communication, and we present a powerful force for change when it comes to integrating primary care and mental health care. (April 2014)
    With the APNA Institutes for Mental Health Advocacy’s video on the Policy Implications of Integrated Care, numerous continuing education offerings online, the APNA Annual Conference presentations on the subject, and members who are piloting new models across the country, psychiatric-mental health nurses are helping to erase the artificial  boundary that has been constructed between physical and mental health. The Education Council will be developing resources to help nursing faculty ensure that BSN students receive the knowledge and skills they need to promote, assess, and respond to mental health needs, regardless of setting. Likewise, much discussion in the All-Purpose Discussion Forum has explored psychiatric-mental health skillsets for undergraduate students. This work helps to prepare our future nurses to take an integrated approach to mental health care!
  4. Partnering with individuals in ways that respect autonomy and integrate trauma-informed principles is critical to psychiatric-mental health nursing care. We understand well the importance of ensuring person-centered, trauma informed, and recovery-focused care. (June 2014)
    The death of Robin Williams, and suicidal deaths of lesser known persons for whom we have cared, has once again reminded us of how dire the need is for more research, more access to care, more action...and less stigma. It is estimated that of adults with serious mental illness, only about 60% receive the care that they need (APNA, 2014). This is just one statistic in a complex issue with which our entire health care system is grappling. One way to help is through a commitment to not only a practice based upon evidence and education, but also demonstrating the value that evidence-based psychiatric-mental health nursing practice has on outcomes – through documentation, through research, through education.  Let’s match our passion and commitment to best practices with the next steps; partner with our doctoral colleagues in nursing and other disciplines and get the data out there. 

Analysis for continuous improvements in our scientific and educational approaches to mental health care are the foundational core of psychiatric/ mental health nursing practice and our psychiatric/mental health nursing organization, APNA.  Like most aspects of our work, analysis involves commitment to caring and listening intently to those we serve and to each other, evolving and modifying along the way.  Healthy analysis will continue to serve us all, through our collective work in APNA.  And while we journey together, let’s remember to enjoy each other and laugh along the way.

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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.