About the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing
The Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nurses, which is often simply referred to as ACAPN, was once known as Advocates for Child Psychiatric Nursing. This organization was founded in the early 70s for the purpose of supporting nurses involved in child and adolescent mental health nursing. ACAPN was, and is, “dedicated to offering an association of support, networking, advocacy and education for children and their families and the nurses who provide care for them”. To be a member of the organization you can be nursing a professional, such as an RN or LPN, with advanced skill and knowledge in psychiatric nursing, or you can be any health care profession from any sector of the health care industry who has a background in this type of nursing. The organization is open to anyone who is truly interested and invested in the treatment of children and adolescents who have psychiatric problems and who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with others in the profession in order to improve the level of treatment that these individuals receive.
The Purpose Of The Association
Every professional organization has a particular purpose or goal that it aims to achieve by its existence. As the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing is a subsection of the International Society of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, the first aim and goal of this organization is, unsurprisingly, to promote the mental health of infants, children, adolescents as well as their families. This is achieved:
- Through clinical practice
- Through public policy
- Through research
In addition to this obvious primary aim, the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing also has a number of other goals and ideals towards which it strives. For one thing it aims to promote excellence in the education of child and adolescent psychiatric nurse practitioners. Most professional organizations have a very specific agenda, but what they all have in common is the desire to promote their particular discipline and ensure that the standards within that discipline are kept at a very high level. Clearly one of the best ways in which to ensure that an organization is kept at a high standard is by ensuring that its members are well educated.
Children and adolescents, especially those who are mentally disturbed, simply cannot be treated in the same way as you would adults in a similar position, and therefore there are a number of specialized skills as well as a vast bank of knowledge that child and adolescent psychiatric nurses must have access to if they are to perform their roles adequately within the profession. Another means by which the organization hopes to improve and maintain standards within the sub-industry of child and adolescent psychiatric health nursing is by promoting communication among child and adolescent psychiatric nurses. Different individuals, even when they are experts within the same profession, have different skills and differing knowledge to offer. By having a group of other psychiatric nurses to call on you are essentially expanding your ability to best help a client in a given situation.
Networking is one of the best ways to ensure that you meet the needs of a client as well as of expanding your career options and choices as you will come into contact with informational and opportunities that you may not have otherwise had access to. The Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing aims to ensure that this degree of networking does indeed take place among its members. The next goal or aim of the organization is to foster public awareness and professional recognition of specialty practice in child and adolescent psychiatric nursing. It may come as a surprise that this sub profession is not necessarily recognized as being a distinct discipline within nursing.
Psychiatric nursing with children and adolescents is an entirely different situation to working with adults, and consequently there are a number of challenges and situations that may be faced in this sub level of nursing that you would not necessarily encounter elsewhere. The Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing is determined to ensure that larger society acknowledges this and that they develop an understanding attitude towards nurses who choose to work in this profession. Another primary goal of the organization is to promote the delivery of mental health services that are culturally sensitive and provided in the least restrictive setting. This has two implications namely that 1) psychiatric nurses will not discriminate against the clients in their care for any reason, and 2) that their services will be available to as large a portion of the population as is reasonably possible. These ideals reflect the organization’s overall philosophy of helping as many children and adolescents as possible through the skills and services on offer from its members. The next aim of the organization is to promote advanced practice in child and adolescent psychiatric nursing. Advanced practice refers to specialization and advanced expertise within a profession. By promoting this, the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing is essentially saying that it hopes for a high degree of skill and expertise within the profession and that it will strive towards being instrumental in achieving this high level of quality.
Last, but certainly not least, the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing aims to promote improvements in the clinical care of children and adolescents with mental illnesses through research and education. Although there are ‘standard’ methods for working with individuals such as these, there is always room for improvement and organizations and individuals in the profession should consistently strive towards achieving this level of advanced care.
Some of the organizations more specific goals are:
- To increase visibility of ACAPN as a known entity to the public – this is a very important ideal to strive towards as many people are not even aware of the organization’s existence and its online presence is not obvious.
- To increase communication among members – this serves a networking purpose which is in the best interests of each member, but it also serves to improve the industry as a whole.
- To represent mental health issues, especially of children, adolescents and families at different public venues – this is equally important in that it creates a higher degree of awareness among members of the public regarding these issues.
The Psychiatric Society of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses offers a number of awards to its members. This means that your hard work will not go unnoticed and that if you shine within the profession you will be rewarded. The members of the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, which falls under the umbrella of the Psychiatric Society of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, also stand a chance to receive the following awards:
- Clinical Practice Award
- Education Award
- Research Award
- Diversity Award
- Service to Psychiatric Nursing Award
- Melva Jo Hendrix Lectureship Award
- ACAPN Division Award
- ISPCLN Division Leadership Award
- SERPN Division Jeanette Chamberlain Award
- AGPN Division Award
Like all good professional organizations, the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing has a number of publications available that its members as well as others interested in the profession can access. These are excellent resources that make a significant difference in terms of the information and knowledge about the profession that you can gain by perusing them. The publications are:
- The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing (JCAPN) is the official publication of ACAPN
- A Position on the Rights of Children in Treatment Settings
- ISPN Position Paper on Foster Care 10/01/09 (PDF)
- Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Youth in Juvenile Justice (PDF)
- Youth Violence (PDF)
- The Educational Preparation of Advanced Practice Nurses to Address the Mental Health Needs of Children and Adolescents (PDF)
Membership with a professional organization such as this one gives your role as a professional within the industry a higher degree of credibility and ensures that you make a good impression on others within the profession as well as on potential future employers who may consider you for a job. In some cases you may even run into situations where membership with an organization such as this one is in fact compulsory for the position that you are applying for.
If you would like to find out more about this organization you can contact its division director:
Margaret Rhoads Scharf DNP, PMHNP, FNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC
Alternatively you can contact the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses itself in order to find the information that you are looking for:
2424 American Lane
Madison, WI 53704-3102
FAX: 608-443-2474 or 2478