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Reflections from APNA Scholarship Recipient

American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) Board of Directors (BOD) Student Scholarship recipient and recent Penn Nursing graduate Lisa Kehr discusses her experience at the 2018 APNA Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

I recently graduated from the Accelerated BSN program at Penn Nursing and will be entering the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program here this May. My father is a psychiatrist, my mother is a psychiatric social worker, and my grandfather was a psychoanalyst. For the past 77 years my family has helped patients with mental health conditions achieve remission. When I interacted with patients during my psychiatric clinical rotations at Penn I felt connected to my heritage, and thirsted for knowledge about medication management and the art of therapy.

Due to my passion for helping patients heal and recover from mental illness, my psychiatric clinical instructor nominated me to apply for the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) Board of Directors (BOD) Student Scholarship. The APNA’s Board of Directors select 30 students from across the country each year as scholarship winners and celebrates them as future leaders of the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing field. After receiving a letter of recommendation from my clinical instructor and writing three essays about the future of mental health nursing, I was chosen to receive this life-changing award.

The APNA provides BOD scholarship winners with an all-expenses paid trip to the APNA annual conference including free hotel, airfare, meals, and admission to the conference. This year’s conference was held in Columbus, Ohio, and next year’s conference will be in New Orleans. If you are an undergraduate or graduate student who is interested in Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing, I truly recommend applying for the scholarship. The student scholars receive a $200 stipend, personalized business cards, a special breakfast with the Board of Directors, and the ability to meet the APNA President.

Attending the five day conference allowed me to learn about the latest innovations in Psychiatric Nursing. I participated in a suicide prevention training course, visited a hall of research posters, learned about treatment resistant depression at a dinner symposium, and attended phenomenal speaker presentations. The conference was also an incredible networking opportunity, where I connected with thousands of psychiatric nurses from every state. I developed very close friendships with the other scholarship winners, and we all keep in touch.

I will never forget standing with the other BOD scholars and hearing a room full of 2,000 psychiatric nurses cheer for us. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought to myself, “It is never too late to find a career that you love. To find a job that ignites your soul, and is your deepest calling.” I worked in various sales and marketing roles for seven years until I discovered that nursing was the right fit for me. Being a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Candidate at Penn Nursing is my ultimate dream come true, and I wake up every morning feeling eternally grateful.