Psychiatric Nursing: Quality and Safety through Connection, Engagement, and Partnership

By Margaret Knight, PhD, PMHCNS-BC

McLean Hospital Department of Nursing enjoyed outstanding representation at the 25th Annual Conference of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), as Paula Bolton, Catherine Coakley, Deborah Mindnich, Peggy Knight, Clare Sellig, and Christine Tebaldi joined other psychiatric nursing leaders, past and present, in Anaheim, CA, October 19 -22.  The title of this year’s conference was Psychiatric Nursing: Quality and Safety through Connection, Engagement and Partnership.  Keynote speakers included Grace Sills and Jean Watson, and multiple daily presentations covered content in Nursing Administration, Recovery, Education, Research, and the Integration of Physical and Mental Health Care.

Paula Bolton and Catherine Coakley presented Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome in Patients with Severe Mental Illness (SMI) to an audience of over 150 nurses.  The results of their study described the significant risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome for individuals with SMI, due to both treatment and lifestyle factors.  Further, they discussed the problems associated with the lack of primary care that many of these individuals experience.  Their presentation was outstanding, and nurses from around the country participated actively, sharing their concern about the co-morbidities and decreased life expectancy of the patients for whom they care.  

Other presentations also focused on the physiological health and well being of our patients, a topic that deserves continued focus by all of us over the next several years. This is an area where nurses need to be involved.  Nursing-based interventions, such as educating patients and supporting them through their attempts at lifestyle changes, can really make a difference.

Clare Sellig, Peggy Knight, and Deborah Mindnich presented at the Poster Sessions, which bridged two days of the conference.  Clare and Peggy’s poster, Mindfulness and an Intervention for Depression and Anxiety,received considerable attention and accolades for its creativity.  Few hospitals or inpatient treatment facilities had mindfulness meditation programs in place, though many were interested in developing them.  Many individuals noted the benefits they personally achieve from meditation and yoga, providing further support for the need to develop such instruction for psychiatric inpatients.  Deborah’s poster, Clinician versus Self Report of Suicidality: A Chart Based Correlational Study, highlights the disagreement between patient and clinician assessment of both depression and suicidality.  Her study determined that the discrepancy was greater when the patient carried an Axis II diagnosis.  Many attending the session agreed with her findings, based on experiences in their own practices. 

The value of sharing evidence-based research is unquestionable.  Disseminating findings through presentations and poster formats at regional and national conferences allows rapid access to the findings for those in practice.  The McLean Hospital Nursing Department is certainly contributing to psychiatric nursing by addressing problems through research.

As co-chair for the Institute for Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA), Christine Tebaldi co-led the 3rd Annual Interactive Panel on Friday afternoon.  The Institute monitors legislative, regulatory, and policy matters affecting mental health, and informs psychiatric mental health nurses about these issues while coordinating organizational responses.  IMHA’s work this year included facilitating the involvement of psychiatric nurses in the development of the DSM-V, weighing in on documents originating from national organizations such as the Joint Commission, the Mental Health Liaison Group, and the Nursing Community, and continued monitoring of regulatory agencies and professional organizations. This panel presentation explored potential activities for 2012.    Christine also co-presented at the pre-conference during the session on Emergency Room Care of the Psychiatric Patient - a collaborative educational project involving APNA and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).  She wrote the chapter on Innovative Practices.

The APNA is one of the few psychiatric nursing organizations in the country. There are over 7,500 members of the APNA, who are committed to the specialty practice of psychiatric mental health nursing through identification of mental health issues, prevention of mental health problems, and the care and treatment of persons with psychiatric disorders (  The conference provides access to new knowledge in the field, as well as opportunities for networking and getting involved in psychiatric nursing at the regional and national level.  Planning is already underway for the 26th Annual conference, Fighting Stigma, to take place in Pittsburgh, PA, November 7-10, 2012.  Consider attending!