Leslie Hite is striving to address some of the challenges faced by practitioners working in rural health care.
One of her goals is to help practitioners work together instead of in the silo conditions many are accustomed to. She helps address this working with the WISe team at Okanogan County Behavioral Health and the Okanogan County SMART team, as well as serving as co-Chair of the AAPPN Rural Practice Group.
Prior to becoming a PMHNP, Leslie worked as a psychiatric RN for 12 years. To advocate for better mental healthcare, she sought further education and obtained an MSN in 2019.
As an independent PMHNP and psychiatric consultant, she works at Mid Valley Clinic in Okanogan County. She promotes cooperation among behavioral health leaders in Okanogan County to improve care for the rural and underserved population. She is AAPPN Board of Directors Member-at-Large and served on the Legislative Committee in addition to her work with the Rural Practice Group.
What inspired you to become a nurse and then further move on to a psychiatric nurse practitioner?
“I chose a nursing career because of my interest in medical science and caring for people. As a nurse, I worked in various clinical areas for over 10 years before I found mental health care was where I was meant to be. While working locally in my community hospital in a behavioral health unit, I often found myself advocating for better mental health care in the emergency room, on the unit, in the county, and throughout the state.
Tell us about your rural county practice (both as a clinical practitioner and a consultant).
“I work in Okanogan County at a rural health clinic in both independent practice and as a psychiatric consultant in our integrated primary care and behavioral health care program. I see individuals from all over the county for mostly diagnostic clarification and medication consult and management. I help out the WISe team at Okanogan County Behavioral Health and I am part of our Okanogan County SMART team.
“What I am most excited about is that we just had our first gathering of behavioral health leaders in the county with the purpose to work together instead of in silos to improve mental health access and treatment.”
You are taking on multiple professional roles (e.g., AAPPN Board At-Large Member and Rural Practice Group Co-Chair). What gives you energy and what do you do for your own self-care practice?
“Coffee helps and a good night sleep. I may use a day to research but I try to take a whole day that I spend away from anything work-related. I like exploring new places or spending time with my 2 dogs. I start my mornings with meditation for the day and set an intention and I walk a lot. I have woods behind my house to explore and last winter I bought snowshoes to help explore those snowy trails.
“I travel a few times a year back home to Louisiana to see my dad and family and I pick a different country to explore once a year. The pandemic slowed travel down for me, so I bought an RV and hit the road more. I love learning about different cultures and I’m a foodie and I moved closer to Spokane this past year to be closer to an airport and explore more restaurants popping up.”
Do you have any words for PMHNP students?
“I would say to ask questions and practice what you plan to do as a PMHNP with your preceptor. I had many preceptors. Some of my classmates stayed with the same site or maybe had two different preceptors. I picked a new preceptor and site each semester to develop my own style and learn different ideas. I also picked different types of sites because sometimes you don’t know where you want to work or you think you know but then later change your mind. So having different types of sites helps you develop that sense of possibilities you may later want to explore.
“I would also say that before you decide on your first job, do some research and know your role and responsibilities in that job.”
What role has AAPPN played in your career?
“I called AAPPN before I moved here and talked to Kirk, because I knew I would need them. When I moved here, I drove to Seattle area for a meeting to learn how I could be involved in AAPPN and meet other PMHNPs. Everyone I met that day was so encouraging and helpful.
“There are members that have great ideas and the committees continue to provide leadership and support and direction for our future. I joined the legislative committee at that time to learn more about advocacy and to be active. I gain a lot from the posts on listserv and connecting with other members like MaryAnne and when I can, I join in the CAYA group.
“We have so many knowledgeable leaders and members that I have felt supported and proud to be a member of AAPPN.”