During my career I have been fortunate to work at Rush University Medical Center which has a structure for nurturing one’s clinical and academic interests. My clinical interest has been creating safe and healing environments for children with serious emotional disorders (SED). I have been particularly interested in proactive approaches that prevent the use of coercive methods, i.e. manual restraints, during inpatient treatment. I have been honored to be a member of two successive task forces of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association that have crafted Restraint and Seclusion guidelines for inpatient psychiatric treatment. I was also the chair of the Association for Child and Adolescent Nurses (ACAPN) task force that in 2006 produced a document laying out standards for inpatient child/adolescent treatment.
One key to building healing environments for children with SED is to understand the neurobiology of child disorders and the implications of that science to evidence based therapies. I have built a neurobiological model for a proactive approach to reducing aggression; one that I am currently (as a consultant) implementing with a hospital that had a high restraint rate and was seeking to change the culture. My model which provides technical skills along with the broader inpatient model of Len Bowers (UK) is showing promise.
These past 10 years I have been involved in crafting a graduate program in Psychiatric Mental Health (PMH) nursing that is centered on the neurobiology of illness and evidence based treatments. With this program we hope to greatly improve both quality and access to mental health care. We have used innovative web-based methods to offer our graduate program to rural PMH nurses who would otherwise be unable to become clinically trained to treat children and adults with serious mental illness. In the last five years we have graduated 50 students from our PMH masters program, many of whom now practice in rural areas.