Skip to Main Content

Suicide Prevention Training Expert Empowers Nurses

Suicide Prevention Training Expert Empowers Nurses
Rebecca Puchkors is a faculty member for the APNA Competency Based Suicide Prevention Training.

September 2023

As an expert in suicide prevention, Rebecca Puchkors, MSN, RN, PMH-BC, CA-SANE, knows the importance of trained providers in caring for those at risk. After taking the APNA Competency Based Training for Suicide Prevention herself, Puchkors became a faculty member for the training in 2018. She is now part of the team adapting the current course so it can be completed 100% online and on demand. The online certificate program is set to be launched early next year.

“Revising the course to an online format [this year] has been rewarding,” Puchkors, a clinical instructor for Baylor University in Texas as well as a psychiatric-mental health and SANE nurse, says. “I believe this will allow many more nurses to access the training and elevate the care they provide, ultimately making a difference in suicide prevention.”

Tell us about your background in suicide prevention and what drew you to this work.

As a psychiatric-mental health nurse, I was struck by the number of people coming into my care who had attempted suicide. I also was acutely aware of the statistics about suicide and it was alarming. Because I was a newer nurse working in a hospital that did not have specialized training and education specific to psychiatric-mental health nursing, I looked for every opportunity to learn and grow on my own. One of the courses I completed was the APNA Competency Based Suicide Prevention Training. The day was packed with helpful information and activities that I knew would be valuable to my role and the patients I cared for. I was able to see the difference knowledge and skills had on my own confidence to help others and I knew that suicide was preventable. And I wanted to be a part of saving lives.

Even with experience, suicide prevention can be a tough topic for nurses. How does suicide prevention training help nurses feel more competent in providing care for patients at risk for suicide? What specific tips and strategies do you have for nurses?

Risk formulation is a key component of the course. By providing a model for risk formulation, supported by research, nurses can feel more confident in assessing individuals and determining risk. This is often an area that feels subjective, but the training shows the science behind clinical judgment and reasoning.

Another key component [in the training] is the safety plan intervention. It isn’t enough to help nurses assess and determine risk, they need to be able to do something to help and to keep people safe. The safety plan is an evidence-based intervention that provides a valuable tool for PMH nurses working with individuals at risk for suicide. It builds on the therapeutic relationship, and it allows the patient and the nurse to develop a crisis plan that is individual to the person.

Other components of the training that are essential: nurses understand the stigma and shame surrounding suicide, how the language they choose can make a difference in decreasing the stigma and allowing people to feel comfortable disclosing suicide and become self-aware and more confident in asking direct questions.

>>> Need help now: Call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, 24-hour confidential help.


*           *           *

About APNA: The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is a national professional membership organization committed to the practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing and wellness promotion, prevention of mental health problems, and the care and treatment of persons with psychiatric disorders. APNA’s membership is inclusive of all psychiatric-mental health registered nurses including associate degree, baccalaureate, advanced practice (comprised of clinical nurse specialists and psychiatric nurse practitioners), and nurse scientists and academicians (PhD). APNA serves as a resource for psychiatric-mental health nurses to engage in networking, education, and the dissemination of evidence. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.