Donna Poole embodies the core values of AAPPN—Connection, Education, Career Cultivation, and Advocacy. After more than 45 years in practice, she has entered into partial retirement by working one day a week as a nursing home psychiatric consultant for Kitsap Mental Health Services.
Her background includes extensive experience providing direct mental health treatment services, primary care consultation for behavioral health complications, and psychiatric consultation-liaison services for medical/surgical in-patients. She has served as Clinical Instructor for the University of Washington School of Nursing (Psychosocial and Community Health), the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Wyoming, and Catholic University of America.
She is a past president of the Association of Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses and the Washington State Nurses Association. Donna was initially appointed to Washington State’s Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission by Governor Gregoire and reappointed by Governor Inslee; she is currently the Vice-Chair.
Donna recently shared with AAPPN how she got started as an Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse and her advice for recent grads.
Did you always plan on a career in psychiatric nursing when you were in nursing school?
I always thought I wanted to be a pediatric nurse, but once I was exposed to the area I found working with newborns wasn’t challenging enough and I hated working with sick kids. Once I got to my senior year and had not found anything I liked, I started to worry. My final two semesters were ICU and psychiatry. I loved both and my favorite instructor was the ICU instructor. However, I chose psychiatry for several reasons. In those days you had to work on the medical floors, which I hated, for a couple of years before you could work in an ICU. Also this was before the era of fitted sheets and I could not make an adequate corner. The Psych Unit loved me and offered me a part time job as a psych tech before I graduated. My future was sealed.
Ultimately, I kind of backed into advanced practice psychiatric nursing via on-the-job training. Because of this, I only got one of the 3Ps from my Master’s program and to continue to be an advanced practice nurse I must stay in Washington state and never give up my certification. I graduated in 1975 before the role of Nurse Practitioner was fully formed (there was a pediatric NP program at my school, but it did not require a Master’s degree).
How has your involvement in the profession changed over the years?
I was very involved politically through Washington State Nursing Association and the early days of AAPPN to advocate for prescriptive authority. I had been in advanced practice for 10 years before I obtained my PMH-CNS certification.
Over the years, I have worked the following roles in this order: inpatient staff nurse, academia, inpatient management, inpatient staff development, inpatient staff nurse, inpatient consultation liaison in medical hospitals and nursing homes, outpatient public sector chronic mental health, and finally nursing home consultation liaison. Together they add up to 46 years of practice.
Any words of advice to new grads?
The advice I would give new grads is to select a work environment with good peer support. Don’t think you need to know everything and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I always say the only stupid question is the unasked one.
The warning I would give, is don’t go home until your documentation for the day is complete. Too often, I see new grads fall into in pit of warnings and it often is too difficult to crawl out of that pit.
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