Me, Dr. Melnyk, Dr. Stephens, Marie Morilus-Black

I was invited to listen to a panel discussion of several distinguished healthcare professionals address childhood obesity and mental illness today at the National Press Club!  The keynote speaker was the current Surgeon General of the United States, Richard Carmona.  The discussion was the brainchild of Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the Arizona State University School of Nursing and Health Innovations.  I was excited to have an opportunity to not only witness but also, perhaps get a chance to meet Dr. Melnyk because I cited her Evidence-Based Practice work in my final Scholarly Paper last month (can you say, ‘NETWORKING OPPORTUNITY’???)!!  Dr. Melnyk and her partners have dominated the EBP Nursing world for the last decade or so with their model of EBP (STAR), developed at the University of Texas School of Nursing.  Dr. Melnyk is a dually-prepared NP–in pedes and psychiatry/mental health (WHEW!!), so she is unequivocally qualified to speak to both topics!  Here she is on the dais with Marie (3rd from right)

Dr. Melnyk speaking from the dais--Marie is 3rd from right

and another of her giving the closing remarks.

Dr. Melnyk mentioned being friends with UMB Dean, Janet Allen and how Dr. Allen commented on her (many) projects in the works!!

The event was organized by Kenja Hassan, who is the daughter of one of my co-workers, Sondra Hassan (see mother-daughter photo).

Sandy and Kenja Hassan

Kenja was kind enough to orchestrate a introduction to Dr. Melnyk for me!  I gushed excitement during the actual meeting (I have NO SHAME!!).

I was also able to invite faculty from the Howard University College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences.  Eva Stephens, one of the NP faculty, was the Division of Nursing representative.  I (for the first time in my networking-career (!) was able to serve as the conduit for her to meet others at the conference (see photos).  One of the panelists was the DC Department of Mental Health’s Director of Child & Youth Services, Marie Morilus-Black, LCSW-R.   DMH contingent attending the event were so proud of Marie’s outspoken support of her program and all that the Department is doing for the children in the City.

Me, Dr. Melnyk and Dr. Stephens




Have you ever been a victim of violence in your workplace?  Psychiatric nurses and ED nurses can be repeatedly subjected to this trauma, due to the instability of the patients in their care.  Those suffering from psychiatric disorders and/or substance use disorders or those who are delirious and mobile can wreak havoc on your unit and endanger the staff and the other patients.  Sometimes it’s the family members of the patients who act out their frustrations.

What have you witnessed or been a victim of?  How have you dealt with it?  Was the institution you were working for at the time supportive of you and the potential for additional violence?  Did they put measures into place to make the environment more safe for you and your colleagues and the patients?  What measures were instituted?  Were they sufficient to help you feel safer?  Are you still working there?  Did you leave because of the potential for additional trauma to you or others near you?  Was anyone (a nurse or patient) seriously hurt or killed before changes were made to improve security features?

What would you like to see happen?  Check out these links below for more information.

SPEAKING OF NURSING VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE…Did anyone see last night’s GREY’S ANATOMY?  A very large man was agitated by his injury(?) and began beating up on the ED staff and repeatedly kicked and pummeled a very small man (with the cushioned end of a crutch), who had recently been a patient there.  Of course, ED security force never showed up and Dr. Hunt (new chief of surgery) swooped in with his WHITE COAT and rescued the ED with a left cross to the violent man’s jaw, breaking it.  This is another level of the problem–staff-on-patient violence (despite how justified it may have been)–which complicates the issue even further.  My fear about this is that non-medical people watching the show may feel that this is what routinely happens in EDs when people lose control of their anger/frustration…but I digress 🙂

Looking for feedback from Educators, Clinical Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, Staff Nurses!  What are the trends you’re seeing in Psychiatric Nursing these days?


11/30/11 DOCTOR NURSE?  There is an interesting article on Medscape about the ‘dilemma’ that physicians face when dealing with nurses or other non-MD health practitioners with doctorates.  They are having VERY STRONG REACTIONS to the title of ‘doctor’ being used to address anyone other than an MD, DO, DMD or DDS.  If you regularly read MEDSCAPE and have a login, you can check out the article at



I’d like to hear from you!  Email me if you’d like to write an article about what you do, what you’ve learned, what you like the Health Reform to do for the Severely and Persistently Mentally Ill (SPMI).  Fresh ideas are always welcome!


Are you:

  • In a psychiatric hospital (state or privately owned/operated)?
  • At an outpatient clinic
  • In a community health setting
  • Working for a mental health managed care company or the mental health divsion of a managed care company?
What settings have you liked? Hated?  What would you want to change?
I wanna hear from you!
Peace, Sylvia

Hey, I’m Back! Let’s Talk

I want to know from you what reasons led you to choose psychiatric-mental health nursing (PMHN) as a specialty?

  • Did you ‘burn-out’ in another specialty?
  • Was another nurse in your life in PMHN?
  • Do/did you have a mentally-ill relative or loved one whose life affected you to want to learn more?
  • Do you like talking more than taking physical care of patients?
  • Do you like finding out what people are thinking about and why?
  • Did you need a different challenge?
  • Was it another reason I haven’t listed or a combination of some of these?
Read on and check out why I switched.
After 5 years in Critical Care at a local community hospital, I was well past the ‘burn-out’ stage. I was floundering in my work, I was crying many evenings when I went home from the unbelievable stress of the job. I was really torn about leaving, but I knew I had to. I relished the level of knowledge that we RNs had to have in this specialty in order to give quality care. I enjoyed learning the new technology and precepting new nurses. I had risen as high as I could at that time in that area and I wasn’t going to return to school for my Master’s, because the current thinking was that it wasn’t going to be recognized (i.e., merit a raise and/or promotion), so I didn’t pursue it.
I was also preparing to marry and the release of stress my fiance witnessed made him beg me to change jobs. I had transferred patients with Axis III diagnoses/co-morbidities from the Critical Care Area (CCA) to our psych unit several times over the years and after my initial anxieties about going onto the unit–yes, a very scary proposition for most of the uninitiated–I realized I enjoyed the atmosphere. I also realized a couple of times when I had an ‘easy’ assignment–2-3 patients with Mild MIs (Myocardial Infarctions), that I realized talking to them about their lives and how calming (for me and maybe for them, too) it was.
We were in the midst of a staffing shortage–that’s been around FOR-E-VER–and my head nurse said that it wasn’t going to change. I was carrying three patients on a regular basis with multiple drips and at least two of them had ventilators. The multiple q 15min vital signs and drip calculations and lab drawing and CSF pressure reads, EKG interpretations, etc., just got to be too much for me. This was in the early-to-mid ’80’s and all of these tasks were performed manually. A few of the functions were ‘automated’, but not many and it wore me out, made me feel guilty and depressed because I couldn’t keep up. So I left. I called the psych unit’s head nurse and applied for the opening they had. She was a former critical care nurse, too, so I knew she knew how I felt. She hired me! The next day, I told my head nurse that I was leaving in two weeks. My colleagues called me crazy for making this move. They didn’t understand why I wanted to do this and said that only crazy people worked there. I persevered cause I had to get out of there!!
I started on 8E, the week before I got married! That was 25 years ago. Though being in PMHN hasn’t been the total bed of roses or the greener grass that I thought it would be, changing specialties did save my sanity. I am forever grateful to Margaret Bynum, RN, BSN, my CCA head nurse for taking a chance on me 30 years ago and for molding me, promoting and supporting me through the years. She was a great nurse and leader role model for me, as well. I hope I was a good employee for her!
Text Copyright 2010 Sylvia Ratliff-Trappio/