In October, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) held its annual conference in Long Beach, California. Among the attendees at the three-day conference were 20 Frontier Nursing University (FNU) psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) students and three FNU faculty members.
The unique opportunity for FNU students to attend the conference was made possible by funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) grant. HRSA, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the $1,920,000 grant to FNU in 2021. The project period extends from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2025.
The BHWET grant project is led by Dr. Jess Calohan, DNP, PMHNP-BC, FNU’s Department Chair for the Department of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. The goal of the project is to increase the number of psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners who are diverse in race, ethnicity, and other underrepresented populations serving in rural and medically underserved communities through collaboration with clinical Experiential Training Site partners. The grant project supports curriculum development related to child/adolescent care, interprofessional team-based trauma-informed care, and additional telehealth simulations. The grant also provides $290,000 annually in scholarships for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner students.
In addition to scholarships, the grant provides travel funding for educational opportunities such as the APNA Conference. Travel to conferences provides invaluable networking opportunities for students and enhances their knowledge of the psychiatric-mental healthcare field.
“We were able to utilize the grant funding not only to provide for the tuition for the conference itself, but it also covered much of the travel expenses for the students as well,” said Dr. April Philllips, DNP, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC, Clinical Director of the PMHNP program at FNU.
Students interested in attending the conference completed an application, including an essay outlining why they would like to attend the conference, what they hoped to gain from it, and how they planned to work with underserved populations, which is the focus of the BHWET grant.
“The location of the conference in California was a deterrent. I know the cost of living there is higher than where I am in Charlotte,” said PMHNP student Esenam Dankwa. “As a full-time student and part-time worker, having extra money to pay for this conference was out of the question. Having the grant was a huge relief. It offered me the opportunity to be part of this conference.”
“Without the BHWET grant, I would not have been able to attend the APNA Conference,” added PMHNP student Cayo Alba said. “The financial impact of being a student is not insignificant, and while I saved money to be able to attend Frontier, there isn't much left for extra things. Receiving this grant made it possible for me to attend the conference without worrying about how it would affect my family's finances. I had the opportunity to meet other FNU students and make connections with people who share my interests and are excited about the field of psychiatry. I especially enjoyed that the conference attendees represented all facets of the psychiatric care spectrum. Being able to learn the unique perspectives of inpatient providers, therapists, psych-RNs, and others was immensely valuable and will contribute to my overall success as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.”
“The financial impact of being a student is not insignificant, and while I saved money to be able to attend Frontier, there isn't much left for extra things. Receiving this grant made it possible for me to attend the conference without worrying about how it would affect my family's finances.”
- Cayo Alba, PMHNP Student
Though the application process required time and effort, it was well worth it for those who were awarded the travel funding.
“What an unforgettable experience, great location, food, friends, and a wealth of information,’” said PMHNP student Treena Adams. “The takeaways were that there are so many of us trying to do right for the field of psychiatric nursing. We just want to be the best and do the best for this population of patients who struggle with so much. This conference gives so much in so many ways to equip us to do that.”
“The great thing about this conference is that it provided students with one more interactive process that they wouldn’t get with any other online experience,” Dr. Phillips said. “We had a very proactive group of students at the conference. They were able not only to attend some very informative sessions, but there was also a lot of interaction between the students where they could discuss what they were learning.”
During the conference, FNU’s marketing and advancement team hosted a breakfast for the university’s attendees, offering an additional opportunity to connect with fellow students and FNU faculty.
“The interaction (at the conference) increased my self-esteem as a psychiatric nurse, and I felt proud to be a part of this field,” Dankwa said. “The conference's educational experience helped me better understand novel interventions for treating psychiatric disorders. I collaborated with other conference attendees and developed long-term professional relationships. This experience has inspired me to be a part of the change in improving care for psychiatric patients.”
While the conference funding is just one of many ways in which the BHWET grant funding is being utilized, it is a prime example of how increasing access to education and training can ultimately lead to better access to psychiatric care.
“This is one of the things that makes Frontier different, really unique,” Dr. Phillips said. “We are able to bring community-based education to our students that we hope they will take back to their rural and urban underserved areas. That’s at the heart of Frontier.”
“This is one of the things that makes Frontier different, really unique. We are able to bring community-based education to our students that we hope they will take back to their rural and urban underserved areas. That’s at the heart of Frontier.”
- Dr. April Philllips, DNP, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC, Clinical Director of the PMHNP program
The 2023 APNA Conference will be held October 4-7 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
1. Angela Betters
2. Elizabeth Quill
3. Melissa Knutson
4. Cayo Alba
5. Kimberly Arnold
6. Katie Dahlstrom
7. Treena Adams
8. Amanda Jackson
9. Mckisa Fryer
10. Sarah Munn
11. Jason Bennett
12. Ashley Phillips
13. Jacob Knox
14. Lauren Nguyen
15. Sujata Kunwar
16. Kristy Gonzales
17. Mishell Ellis
18. Esenam Dankwa
19. Trevor Runge
20. Terra Edwards
21. Lynn Henderson
1. Dr. April Phillips
2. Dr. Laura Lewis
3. Dr. Jeff Dobbins