Kathy Riedford, PhD, PMHNP-BC, RN
USI Assistant Professor of Nursing
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Specialty Coordinator
BSN to DNP Program Director
Degrees Earned: I received my Bachelor’s in Nursing in 1979 from the University of Evansville. In 1997, I was awarded a PhD in Psychiatric Nursing from Indiana University. My PhD was very research-focused, and I worked with mentors who had multi-million-dollar research projects. I had a strong desire to do something more clinically-based, but I didn’t know what form that could take. I went on to complete a post master’s certificate for psychiatric nurse practitioner from University of South Alabama in 2007 with board certification early in 2008. The first American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Exam was not offered until 2000!
From: I grew up on a 100-acre farm near St. Meinrad about 60 miles from Evansville. After living in Indianapolis, Dayton, Ohio, and Muncie, Indiana, my family moved back to Evansville in 1994.
Where have you worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner? I was hired by Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare (SWBHC) in 2007 and was given my own caseload of patients. There were only two other psychiatric nurse practitioners in the Evansville area at that time, and one of them was also at Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare. We were charged with writing the protocols for our role in the organization because the role was so new that the collaborating psychiatrists weren’t knowledgeable about our skills and competencies. My initial caseload was at Moulton Center at the west side location. Three years later, the medical director asked me to move to the Moran Center on the east side to see children and adolescents, ages 5 to 18. After working with that population for seven years, I was asked to move to the downtown location to take a caseload of patients with chronic mental illnesses (primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder).
I have learned a tremendous amount in each location, primarily from the patients themselves. The medical staff, therapists and others have truly been a joy to work with. Even though I have worked an average of only one day a week, SWBHC staff always made me feel welcome and treated me with incredible kindness. If I was to do a Google review, they would definitely receive 5 stars!
How long have you been teaching at USI? I began teaching in both the graduate and undergraduate programs as adjunct faculty in 1994 as I was completing my PhD at Indiana University. I was also in the process of raising six young children, so I didn’t begin full time at USI until August 2005 even though I was strongly encouraged by Drs. Coudret and White to begin sooner. I am very fortunate to have had them both as mentors.
How does it feel to be teaching future nurses? From the time I developed the psychiatric nurse practitioner specialty at USI in 2011, I have been very aware of the potential impact on others. Because the MSN Program has been an online program since its inception, I have had the opportunity to teach students across the country since this program began. The wide diversity of students has brought a richness to the program that would not otherwise have been possible if it was limited to the local region. I am currently teaching the 13th cohort, and each has brought cultural diversity and increased understanding from the varied psychiatric clinical practices across this vast United States. I have long been acutely aware that the students I have had the privilege to teach, nurture and mentor go on to make prominent differences in their communities and environments, much greater differences than I could have made in multiple lifetimes. That is very humbling, and I will always consider it one of my greatest blessings to have been given the opportunity to coordinate this program.
In your own words, why is it important to recognize nurse practitioner week? I believe it is important to recognize nurse practitioner week for several reasons. The general public can benefit from greater exposure and understanding about the role. As a mid-level provider, the scope of practice subsumes higher responsibility than that of a registered nurse who does not hold advanced practice credentials, but it is not the same as that of a physician. An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) functions within the framework of nursing, and even though if an objective observer viewed the tasks they perform, it would often look similar to those a physician performs, their approaches are not the same. An APRN is grounded in the quintessence of nursing; he/she does not take on the role of physician. To perceive them as the same shows disregard for both disciplines.
Additionally, it is important to recognize the contributions nurse practitioners make in healthcare. Whether specialized in primary care, acute care, pediatrics, women’s health, psychiatry or gerontology, nurse practitioners are leaders who bear great responsibility for promoting improved health care through development of primary and secondary prevention programs, providing direct care, and collaborating both as APRNs and within their specialties to influence public policy.
Anything else you would like to add? I will add that the role of nurse practitioner brought with it many opportunities with a lens into perspectives that broadened and enhanced many aspects of my lived experience. My understanding of the world would be much more limited and narrow without the encounters I have had in this role, which are far too numerous to mention, but I will give one example.
When I was training for nursing at UE, the clinicals I found most satisfying were those in psychiatric institutions, particularly those experiences at Evansville State Hospital where Dr. Nadine Coudret was my primary faculty. I worked in many areas of nursing through the years, but psychiatry was always the area where I felt most alive. When I was asked to begin seeing patients from the chronic population at SWBHC, many of whom are mentally compromised and very socioeconomically poor, I expected most would no-show to appointments. I was astounded to find that they rarely missed appointments with me. Many of them of them walked or rode a bike to the clinic no matter what the weather or navigated circuitous routes on the city bus in spite of paranoia to get to the clinic. It was rare for any of them to not show, and many were there well before their scheduled time.
In spite of delusions and ongoing bothersome hallucinations even with significant medication profiles, I found that most of them tended to focus on what was positive in life rather than placing attention on the negative. These people have taught me more about living gratitude than anyone or anything else in my life, and to them I owe a great debt. My life has a depth of meaning that would not be present if not for the opportunity to serve in the role of nurse practitioner.