Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses Central to Violence Prevention in Communities Says American Psychiatric Nurses Association

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New position paper situates psychiatric-mental health nurses at the forefront of violence prevention and accompanying toolkit supports them in strategies to prevent violence across their healthcare and community workplace settings.

Diane Allen

Diane Allen, MN, RN-BC, NEA-BC, chaired the APNA Task Force that developed the position paper and Violence Prevention Toolkit.

While violence tears at our hearts and threatens to disrupt our society, we are not helpless in its wake

In the midst of increased public awareness of the need for violence prevention strategies, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) today released a position paper that delineates the role and ethical responsibility of psychiatric-mental health nurses in violence prevention. At the same time, APNA released a toolkit of resources which aims to support and empower psychiatric-mental health nurses in this role.

Psychiatric-mental health (PMH) nurses, committed to promoting mental health through a purposeful use of self and a range of nursing, psychosocial, and neurobiological evidence (1), are integral participants in an interprofessional public health approach to the complex issue of violence prevention. In addition to inpatient hospital settings, PMH nurses work in community outpatient health care settings where they encounter and have the opportunity to intervene early to prevent intimate partner violence, sexual violence, elder abuse, suicidality, and homicidality.

"While violence tears at our hearts and threatens to disrupt our society, we are not helpless in its wake,” says Diane Allen, MN, RN-BC, NEA-BC, who chaired the APNA Task Force which created the position paper and toolkit. “As psychiatric-mental health nurses, we are well positioned within our communities to not only help people in the aftermath of violence, but also to help prevent violence. We have outlined recommendations to help our communities work together to prevent violence, and we have developed a toolkit of resources to help nurses prevent violence wherever they interact within their communities."

“As an organization, APNA believes every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Psychiatric-mental health nurses demonstrate leadership in violence prevention in their clinical settings as well as in their communities,” says APNA President Mary Ann Nihart, MA, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, PMHNP-BC. “This position paper and toolkit provide additional support, resources, and education in their violence prevention efforts. We are incredibly proud of the work psychiatric-mental health nurses do each day, as ultimately they help make the world a safer place to live."

A growing body of evidence supports the concept that PMH nurses can prevent violence by actively engaging with individuals in the health care environment and identifying signs of distress (2). According to the Centers for Disease Control (3), the goal of violence prevention is to decrease risk factors and increase protective factors. APNA takes the position that patient-centered, trauma-informed, recovery-oriented practices, which lie at the core of psychiatric-mental health nursing, are essential to doing so. Therefore, in this position paper APNA calls upon PMH nurses to:

  • “Become familiar with potential risk and protective factors associated with violence and solicit specific data when assessing an individual or family seeking care.”
  • Use their position to work with individuals, families, and communities on “strategies to identify and resolve intolerable feelings in a non-violent manner, using evidence-based best practices”.
  • “Serve as role models in the recognition and prevention of lateral and horizontal violence in the workplace through the use of adaptive, non-violent communication practices.”

The position paper and resources toolkit are freely available on the APNA website at http://www.apna.org/violenceprevention

1.    American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, International Society of Psychiatric Nurses. (2014). Psychiatric-mental health nursing: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association.
2.    Polacek, M., Allen, D., Damin-Moss, R., Sharp, D., Shatell, M., Schwartz, A., Souther, J. Delaney, K. (2015). White Paper: Engagement as Element of Safety on Inpatient Units. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association May/June, 21(3):181-190.
3.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). Injury Prevention and Control: Division of Violence Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/index.html

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Meaghan Trimyer
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