Scholarships for Nursing Programs Promote Quality Patient Care and Professional Satisfaction

January 11, 2013

Congratulations to Amy Clark, RN, Michelle Kelly, MHS, and Mary Grace Treschitta, MHS, the 2013 recipients of the annual nursing scholarships from the McLean Nursing Department, which has long recognized that encouraging staff members to return to school for BSN, MS, or PhD degrees promotes McLean’s mission. Supporting nurses, mental health specialists (MHSs), and community residence counselors (CRCs) in academic nursing programs is an investment well worth making. As more highly educated practitioners bring broader perspectives to their units, patient care and professional satisfaction are enriched. Clark, Kelly, and Treschitta agree that experience-based learning at McLean revealed the areas of nursing that inspired them to pursue advanced academic training.

Amy Clark attributes her growth as a nurse to working at McLean’s Hill Center, where intensive dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is offered for women with borderline personality disorder and other trauma-related conditions. As the only staff nurse there, her diverse responsibilities uncovered a passion for working with patients who have suffered trauma and dissociative disorders. She co-leads didactic skills groups that help patients implement DBT, as well as processing groups that are agenda-driven. She confers with patients individually to build their confidence about managing their own medications after they are discharged.

Other duties include overseeing the Clinical Measurement Initiative, which ensures quality improvements and validates for patients and staff the significant effort that treatment requires. Annual medication in-services and a unit-specific refresher course for CRCs on monitoring how patients administer their own medications are also part of her job description. When a new CRC is hired, she provides individual training and supervision.

Although her days are structured around patient care and staff training, she participates in other learning opportunities at McLean. She attends Grand Rounds and Borderline Center Case Conferences, and she sits in on consultations with experts on trauma and dissociation, such as James A. Chu, MD, and Audrey A. Wagner, PhD. Clark attended the 2013 Women’s Health Initiative, and is active with the Residential RN Committee and the Schwartz Center Rounds Committee.

“It is important to preserve an active relationship with one’s work cohort and to build strong connections with the community,” she said of her philosophy. A member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, Clark also volunteers with Project Bread during Boston’s Walk for Hunger and assists Comfort Zone Camp for bereaved children who have lost a parent to suicide. Nursing Network News published an article she wrote about volunteer experiences in the Dominican Republic with Intercultural Nursing Inc.

Now enrolled at Northeastern University, she expects to graduate in April 2014 with a Master of Science in Nursing degree. As a board-certified Family Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Clark hopes to continue at the Hill Center. Thinking further ahead, she plans to earn a doctorate and educate other nurses about the importance of mental health nursing and specialized treatment for Complex PTSD.

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Michelle Kelly, who has worked as an MHS on the South Belknap I geriatric inpatient unit for the past three years, is now enrolled in a Direct–Entry Masters in Nursing program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. She has wanted to work in the field of psychology since her undergraduate years, when she worked as a research assistant. Since then she has explored different aspects of the field, including as an intern at the Krempels Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she facilitated mental health groups for survivors of traumatic brain injury. When she completes her academic program, she will be a board-certified Psychiatric and Mental Health Practitioner. “I plan to focus on the geriatric population, which I believe is sorely underserved in adequate mental health care,” she said recently.

The link between her on-the-job experiences at McLean and Kelly’s decision to work with geriatric patients is clear. On her unit, she interacts with older patients from diverse medical, socioeconomic, and racial/ethnic backgrounds, who have a variety of diagnoses. She takes an active role to ensure their safety and to build therapeutic rapport with them and their families. Recognizing the value of building a sense of community on a unit, she purchased small fleece blankets that were given to patients during last year’s holiday season. She also organized a New Year’s Eve party at which patients enjoyed Chinese food.

Working at McLean has offered Kelly opportunities to increase her professional skills. Interacting with psychiatrists, social workers, nursing supervisors, nurses, and other mental health specialists on the patients’ treatment teams, she has developed relationships with colleagues and studied the holistic approach to incorporating an individual’s background into an appropriate care plan. Leading mental health groups and participating in the training classes on therapeutic techniques led by Joseph P. Powers, PhD, are other educational opportunities that benefit her professional growth. “These skills will be employed when I continue my work as a nurse practitioner,” she said. Meanwhile, at the Institute, she is expanding the range of those skills, cultivating her leadership qualities, and building confidence in her abilities as a future nurse practitioner.

Mary Grace Treschitta’s association with McLean began in July 2009, when the Northeastern University Cooperative Education program placed her at the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Inpatient Program (AB2) as an MHS. Employment at McLean, where she learned that managing patient safety and providing quality care are her highest priorities, remained a constant while change occurred in other areas of her life over the past four years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has just completed the first year of a Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner program at the Partners-affiliated MGH Institute of Health Professions.

“I have a lot to be grateful for from McLean. Working on these units has allowed me the experience-based learning that teaches far more than what can be accomplished in just a classroom,” Treschitta acknowledged. “And once I started school, I was far ahead of my classmates during our psychiatric clinical rotation and used the opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained. Because McLean has helped me in countless ways in my career and academic path, I try to go above and beyond, not only for the patients we serve, but also as an expression of gratitude.”

At the Institute during her psychiatric rotation, she connected with her clinical instructor, a nurse practitioner at the Clinical Evaluation Center (CEC) at McLean. Treschitta shadowed the instructor for a day so that she could learn more about what patients experience during the admissions process. On NB2, she works on a per diem basis and is a senior MHS. During formal orientations and informal teachable moments, she sets an example for those who have less experience. Maintaining safety on a psychotic disorders unit is one of her main concerns. “I stress the importance of safety with newer MHSs, using stories of real incidents to illustrate key points,” she noted. She also develops materials for therapeutic groups she leads to keep sessions fresh for patients. Recently, she saw a patient successfully using one of the 120 coping skills that Treschitta had compiled for group discussions.

Nurses, MHSs, and CRCs who are enrolled in academic nursing programs and have been employed at McLean for at least one year, working a minimum of 16 hours a week, are encouraged to apply for a scholarship. Committed per diem staff are also eligible.

Applicants submit a statement about their participation in unit, hospital-wide, and patient care activities, and professional learning programs; a personal goals statement; and a letter of support from the individual’s Program Director. Recipients are expected to work at McLean for at least another year. Contact McLean’s Nursing Department for more information about this excellent opportunity.

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