Kristen Kichefski, MSN, MBA, RN-BC
Kristen Kichefski’s unconventional path to nursing demonstrates her trailblazing nature. After completing a degree in accounting, Kichefski worked in accounting and human resources until she changed career paths to pursue nursing. “Nursing is a second career for me because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do more for others,” she says. “It was during my clinical rotations at a psychiatric hospital that I felt the calling towards psychiatric-mental health nursing: the nurses were pillars of strength and hope as they assisted the patients towards their paths to recovery.” For her leadership in establishing care programs that offer marginalized patients the care they need, Kristen Kichefski is the 2016 recipient of the APNA Annual Award for Excellence in Leadership – RN.
Kichefski works as the manager of the Intensive Treatment Unit at Butler Hospital in Providence, RI. When she joined the team, she noticed that some of her teammates had difficulty delivering care to individuals with co-occurring mental illness and developmental disorders. Kichefski took ownership of this concern and partnered with a council of staff to find a solution. The program they designed is the Unique Needs Initiative, which aims to address the unique needs of individuals in an acute care setting with Autism Spectrum Disorders, impulsive violence, non-suicidal self-injury, and personality disorders.
The program included implementation of multi-track programming to match the needs of all levels of care necessary, improved communication with community service providers, and new educational opportunities for staff on communication, treatment approaches, and sensory interventions for this population. These changes were first piloted on the Intensive Treatment Unit, which saw an increase in satisfaction for both patients and staff, leading to the adoption of the initiative across the hospital. Kichefski humbly credits her team for its success. “It was the dedication to improving patient care and the voices of the staff who recognized the need for individualize care in the context of our group based milieu that inspired me to join the team and implement changes on the Intensive Treatment Inpatient Unit,” she says. Jeannie Culf, one of Kichefski’s nominators, praises her leadership and professionalism in establishing this initiative, saying, “None of this [success] just happened: it is the outcome of Kristen’s commitment. Over the last two years, Kristen has proven herself to be an innovative thinker, with the energy and openness to new ideas.”
As a staff leader, Kichefski encourages her fellow nurses to constantly better their practice through education and participate in nursing organizations. “Kristen makes herself available to her staff in any way necessary,” says Summer Short, one of Kichefski’s nominators. “Most importantly, she performs as a listening ear when their schoolwork becomes overwhelming. [During her pursuit of both an MSN and an MBA,] Kristen never once appeared overwhelmed, so as to not deter her nurses from continuing their own educations.” Even when handling patients with complex needs, Kichefski demonstrates compassion, from having one-on-one conversations with patients to providing all the help she can during an emergency. Kichefski encourages future nurses to follow this example, saying, “[Future nurses should] keep an open mind, be flexible, and never stop looking for ways to improve your practice. Every day that you bring your skills, your knowledge, your empathy and an open mind you will make a difference in a patient’s life.”
Kichefski’s dedication in establishing the Unique Needs Initiative and supporting her fellow nurses to be at their very best has set her apart as a nurse leader. We look forward to celebrating her hands-on approach to leadership and her achievements at the APNA 30th Annual Conference this fall in Hartford.