Elaine OlmsteadElaine McGrane Olmstead, RN MS, PMHCNS
2016 Award for Innovation – Individual

Elaine Olmstead knew for most of her life that she wanted to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse. “My mother had been a psychiatric nurse,” she says, explaining her childhood aspirations. “I’ve always had a curiosity about what makes people tick. I was drawn to nursing so that I could emphasize both the mind and body aspects of care.” Because she devotes her personal and professional time to volunteering with ground-breaking alternative therapies, Elaine Olmstead is the recipient of the 2016 APNA Award for Excellence in Innovation – Individual.

At a Glance
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Passion:
Volunteering; Alternative therapies

Words of Wisdom to Future Nurses:
“Listen to patients - they are the ones who teach you the most."

Favorite Color:
Deep purple

Olmstead currently works as a Certified Psychiatric Nurse Clinical Specialist with Streff Associates in Acton, Massachusetts, where she uses an integrative mind-body approach to support wellness. But her commitment to providing care doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. In her spare time, she seeks out volunteer opportunities where she can continue to support wellness in others. “Elaine has held true to the ideals of community health as she joins forces with programs established to aid people at critical stages in their lives and within community based organizations,” says Pamela Terreri, one of Olmstead’s nominators for this award. “[Elaine] has expanded the role of the psychiatric nurse clinical specialist in three different community-based settings,” Maureen Beirne Streff, EdD, RN MSN, PMHCNS_BC, elaborates in her nomination.

When Olmstead learned she would be receiving the Award for Innovation, she was stunned. “I thought it was kind of a stretch,” Olmstead says of her nomination. “In the last three years, the things I did that were innovative were on a volunteer basis – I have done them from the heart. This award affirmed I was doing the right thing.”

One such effort was the work Olmstead did with the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden, a nonprofit center that provides support services for individuals with cancer. From 2009 to 2015, Olmstead led a twice monthly support group for people with metastatic cancer. Olmstead’s decision to provide care to these individuals came from her personal experience. “My mother had died a few years earlier of metastatic cancer, and that made me more interested in it on a professional and personal level,” she says. “It inspired me to give back after all of the support I received.”

Olmstead continues to devote herself to her volunteer efforts and currently serves in Stephen’s Ministry, a program that trains and supervises laypeople to provide one-on-one care to persons experiencing difficulties. As a Stephen’s minister, Olmstead focuses on the spiritual aspect of care and provides training and supervision to members of the Stephen Ministry team. “My own spirituality has been very important to me as a person and I’ve grown to appreciate how valuable that can be in a therapeutic context,” she says.

Additionally, Olmstead volunteers with a therapeutic equestrian program, where she uses her psychiatric-mental health nursing skills alongside horses and nature to provide care. This program teaches various aspects of horsemanship to persons with physical disabilities, mental health concerns, veterans with PTSD, and those affected by autism in order to encourage them about their health and wellbeing. Olmstead is also developing a class for the instructors of the program that focuses on psychiatric illness and interventions as they are appropriate in an equestrian setting.

From all of her volunteer work, Olmstead has a simple piece of advice for future psychiatric-mental health nurses: “Listen to patients,” she says. “They are the ones who teach you the most.” We look forward to celebrating Olmstead’s innovative volunteerism at the APNA 30th Annual Conference this October in Hartford, Connecticut.

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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.