Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Aneesah Coates

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Aneesah Coates

Aneesah Coates, BSN, RN, is an experienced psychiatric mental health nurse with nearly ten years of experience in acute care, long-term care, and home health care. She is the owner of and is passionate about helping nurses, current and aspiring, learn more about the profession.

Coates works at a mental health crisis center as a senior professional evaluation nurse, preceptor to new nurses, Nursing Journal Club facilitator, and nursing department trainer for new staff. She’ll graduate with her doctorate in nursing practice as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in December 2023.

Coates is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2023.

The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.

Aneesah Coates is senior professional evaluation nurse at a local mental health crisis centerand a Champion of Nursing Diversity

Meet Aneesah Coates, BSN, RN, and senior professional evaluation nurse.

Talk about your role in nursing.

I wear several hats in my current nursing role. I am a senior professional evaluation nurse at a local mental health crisis center. We’re part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, specifically under the Western Psychiatric Hospital umbrella, a national leader in diagnosing, managing, and treating mental health and addictive disorders. And we are located in an urban community setting, so we get consumers with various needs and diagnoses.

My duties include triaging consumers coming into the center, conducting intake assessments, making referrals to the appropriate level of care, and working with local pharmacies to ensure that our consumers can access the medications they need. I also serve as a resource for other nurses and clinicians in the facility, providing mentorship and guidance to new staff members and helping with problem-solving when necessary.

More formally, I am trained as a preceptor to new nurses, so I help lead nursing orientation and provide ongoing support during the onboarding process. As the trainer for the nursing department, I give presentations to new staff from all disciplines, providing them with an overview of the nurse’s role within the team. My goal is to ensure everyone who works here understands our role as nurses and how we fit into the team’s overall approach to helping our consumers.

Lastly, I serve as the Journal Club facilitator for the nursing department. I started this initiative by creating a presentation to refresh us on defining key research terms and levels of evidence. Every month, I select a journal article relevant to our work, conduct an article critique, and provide the group with a summary of the main findings. I also provide them with a blank copy of our research critique form and encourage them to reply to the initial email to share their thoughts to foster discussion. Each of my roles has this common thread of support for consumers and staff alike and empowering everyone in the process.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

This year marks a decade as a nurse for me.

Why did you become a nurse? 

Becoming a nurse was a natural progression for me. Seeing my dad in the hospital greatly impacted me as a child, and I was continually inspired by the nurses who cared for him. Despite being in and out of the hospital, my dad was involved in my education and invested a lot in my early education. He nurtured my curiosity and encouraged me to keep learning. My mother’s hard work ethic was also an influence on me.

Between their encouragement and my growing interest in healthcare, nursing seemed the perfect fit. I was drawn to all aspects of the profession and wanted to make a difference with my work. That desire has only grown since then, and I’m continually driven to learn more and improve my practice.

What are the most important attributes of today’s nursing leaders? 

A great attribute for today’s nursing leaders is being able to role model the behaviors and attitudes they’d like to see in their staff. Nursing leaders should be able to demonstrate qualities such as professionalism, accountability, and integrity. It’s also important that nursing leaders are problem-solvers and innovators, ready to take on challenges and come up with creative solutions for their teams. Nursing leaders should strive to be lifelong learners and stay current on best practices and evidence-based research to improve care.

Many attributes that contribute to successful nursing leadership can be learned and developed over time. So if an aspiring leader still needs to possess the desired qualities, they can acquire them through professional development opportunities such as certifications and continuing education. Mentorship and networking can also be great resources for learning and developing these skills.

What does being a nursing leader mean to you, and what are you most proud of?

Being a nursing leader means taking an active role in helping shape healthcare’s future. It’s about understanding how my work can impact the lives of my patients, their families, and our community. It’s about being an advocate for all those I serve and working to ensure that everyone has equal access to healthcare. It’s also about empowering my colleagues, mentoring them, and encouraging them to reach their potential as healthcare professionals. And this can all be done no matter what level of nursing leadership you are in.

I take my leadership role very seriously. I am continuing my education to obtain my doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). I plan to graduate this December and am excited about the opportunities this degree will bring. I am also excited about the work I have done to create, a website devoted to helping students and new and seasoned nurses navigate the world of nursing by providing access to resources and insights on a variety of topics.

Tell us about your career path and how you ascended to that role.

My career path in healthcare began 20 years ago as a dietary aide in a hospital cafeteria. My nursing career started sometime after that when I decided to attend a local community college and obtain my associate’s degree in nursing science. From there, I went to the California University of Pennsylvania for my bachelor’s degree in nursing. And three years ago, I entered Robert Morris University’s BSN-DNP program to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. As a nurse, I have worked in an acute care setting caring for lung transplant patients. I have also worked in skilled nursing, home health care, long-term care, and psychiatric mental health care.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The most significant challenge facing nursing today is the shortage of nurses (source). The nursing shortage results from multiple factors, including low enrollment in nursing programs, a lack of nursing school faculty, and a significant segment of the nursing workforce nearing retirement age. Not to mention how the pandemic has put an even more tremendous strain on the nursing profession. And the shortage is likely to have several downstream effects, including a strain on staffing ratios, leaving nurses overworked and stressed out, which can lead to nurse burnout. This can negatively impact patient outcomes and the quality of patient care. To address this, we need to focus on initiatives such as recruitment and retention programs and professional development opportunities that focus on building leadership skills. We should also continue to invest in incentives such as tuition reimbursement and scholarships to encourage more people to enter and stay in the profession.

These initiatives can create a pathway for nurses to move up the ladder, which not only increases retention but also helps to foster an environment of strong leadership among nurses. I don’t want to minimize the challenge the nursing shortage presents. It’s a complex issue that requires innovative solutions and collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

As a nursing leader, how are you working to overcome this challenge?

I am working to overcome this challenge by engaging in various initiatives and activities to help recruit, retain, and mentor nurses. I am doing this through my website, which provides essential nursing resources to students and new nurses looking to enter the profession. My current professional role allows me to precept students and new nurses, allowing me to share my passion and excitement for the profession. I make it a point to express how nursing is a dynamic profession that can be whatever we make it. In the future, I plan to use the knowledge I have gained through my DNP program to contribute to initiatives and programs that will empower nurses through education and advocacy.

I am interested in health economics and policy, so we’ll see what opportunities open up.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Nurse Alice Benjamin inspires me. She does so much that you can’t help but be inspired by her. Nurse Alice has achieved so much in her career and is passionate about helping others do the same. She is a leader who uses her platform to promote health and wellness while advocating for nurses and patients. Nurse Alice is a force of positivity, and her passion for nursing is contagious. She’s an author, TV medical contributor, ambassador for the American Heart Association, Chief Nursing Officer at, and the list goes on. Her work goes beyond the traditional boundaries of nursing leadership, and she is an excellent example of how nurses can impact healthcare through direct patient care and advocacy.

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

My inspirational message to the next generation of nurses is this: the sky is truly the limit. You can make a real difference in healthcare and positively impact the lives of those who need it most. Believe in your professional abilities, stay true to your values, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of being a great nurse.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I want to remind readers that we all have the power to make a difference in the healthcare field and that each of us has unique skills and talents that we can use to help others. No matter what role you play in healthcare or how much experience you have, your contribution matters. So stay motivated, focus on the task at hand, and always remember why you decided to pursue a career in healthcare in the first place.

A Day in the Life of a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse

A Day in the Life of a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse

As the prevalence for individuals requiring inpatient psychiatric treatment and stabilization has increased over the years, more and more nurses are becoming curious as to what a psychiatric-mental health nurse actually does on a given shift.

Before I delve into the specifics as to what my roles and responsibilities are as a psychiatric-mental health nurse, I want to begin by providing you a brief background on my education, training, and reasoning behind choosing psychiatry as my specialization.

Prior to working as a psychiatric-mental health nurse, I received my BSN degree from West Coast University. As a nursing student, I was exposed to a wide gamut of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and schizophrenia, but I never truly understood the subtle complexities that psychiatric-mental health nurses endure behind the scenes.

After graduation, I worked briefly in the ER and ICU settings, which taught me invaluable lessons such as time management and prioritization, but it never fully gave me the satisfaction I was yearning for. It was at this moment that I decided to pursue a career in psychiatry in hopes of better understanding not only mental illness but also the psychological, emotional, and spiritual ailments that patients experience on a daily basis.

Because of the stigma associated with working in psychiatry, I am frequently asked what my typical day looks like working with this vulnerable population. And to put it plainly, working as a psychiatric-mental health nurse can be both extremely challenging yet rewarding.

Typically in psychiatry, most mental health hospitals utilize an 8-hour shift system, which is evenly divided to AM, PM, and NOC shifts. Since I currently attend graduate school full time, I work per diem NOC shift, which is from 11:30 PM – 08:00 AM.

11:00 PM – 11:30 PM: During this time, I look at the schedule to see where I am assigned and what my role will be for that day. Depending on the staffing situation, my role may vary as the charge nurse, staff nurse, preceptor, or a breaker.

Once I know where I am appointed to and what my role will be, I normally like to go to my assigned unit, perform medication count with the previous shift, and speak with the nurses as to how their shift went. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to “feel out” the unit and get a sense of what might be required depending on the type of patients we have and the acuity level of the hospital.

11:30 PM – 12:00 AM: Once I’ve performed my aforementioned tasks, my team and I receive report on each patient on the unit. In psychiatry, our reports are more heavily focused on “patient presentation,” which details the patient’s mood, affect, their medication compliance, comorbidities, and their behavior. Since most patients admitted to our hospital are either held involuntarily on a 5150 hold for Danger to Self, Danger to Others, or Gravely Disabled, it is essential for us to know how each patient is responding to treatment as well as their behavioral presentation.

In addition to this, the previous shift notifies us if there are any patients that require 1:1 observation (reserved for patients who are highly suicidal, combative, or medically compromised) as well as any potential “watchers” who can be unpredictable, violent, or dangerous. Providing this information is crucial because it not only makes us more mindful of any potential issues we may encounter during our shift but also hypervigilant in ensuring our unit remains safe and secure.

Lastly, the previous shift also provides us with a report on any incoming or pending admissions as well as any discharges that are expected to occur the following morning.

12:00 AM – 12:15 AM: Once report is completed, the charge nurse then assigns the nurses with their patient load as well as their assignments for that day. Once I receive my assignment, I normally like to check on my patients who are asleep and introduce myself to those who are awake. By doing this, it gives me an opportunity to not only meet my patients, but also form a rapport with them while discussing any concerns they may have.

12:15 AM – 04:00 AM: After checking up and introducing myself to my patients, the rest of my day ultimately depends on what needs immediate attention (pending admissions, patients requesting for PRN medications, medical or psychiatric emergencies, etc.).

If for example there is an incoming admission to be expected, I usually take this time to read more about the patient, why they are coming to the hospital, and organize their chart and paperwork for them to sign.

Although performing an admission can be a tedious process, inpatient psychiatric admissions are unique in that it depends on the patient, when they arrive, and how cooperative they are. If patients are uncooperative, admissions can be difficult and timely so efficiency is truly predicated on how organized the nurse is.

If there are no pending admissions, however, I usually take this time to chart on my patients, which involves filling out nursing flowsheets, writing or updating care plans, auditing charts, and reassessing behavioral statuses. In addition to this, the nurses and floor staff is required to round on their patients every 15 minutes to ensure that patients remain safe, secure, and free from any harm.

04:00 AM – 05:00 AM: During this time, I am on my break. Regardless of the demands of the day, I normally try to eat some food and utilize my break time as a way for me to recharge and revitalize before coming back on the unit.

05:00 AM – 07:00 AM: Once I arrive back on my assigned unit, I take this time to carefully go over and make any necessary revisions to my charting to ensure that it’s valid and free from error. I also check up with my patients to ask how they slept and to reassess their psychosomatic symptoms and behavior to determine if their individualized treatment is either effective or ineffective.

After speaking with my patients, I then take this time to administer any scheduled or PRN medications they may require. Depending on the type of medication the patient is taking, I typically like to ask my patient how they feel about the medication and if they notice any improvement in regards to their psychosis or behavior.

As a psychiatric nurse with five years of experience, I have learned that active listening is critical in psychiatry because it not only validates what the patient is saying, but also reaffirms their trust in you as their health care provider.

07:00 AM – 07:30 AM: At this time, we typically serve breakfast to our patients while providing grooming necessities for individuals who want to shower.

While breakfast is being served, I make an effort to make my rounds around the unit to ensure that the 15-minute rounds are being completed while checking on the patients who refuse to eat or are actively psychotic, hearing voices, or feeling anxious and choose to stay in their rooms. Depending on the patient’s presentation, I do my best to lend an empathetic ear while offering support and guidance in addition to offering PRN medications to help them in their current psychotic and behavioral state.

07:30 AM – 08:00 AM: Once breakfast is over and the patients’ needs are attended to, we give report to the incoming AM shift and discuss any significant behavioral changes or issues that we encountered during our shift. In addition to this, I make it a point to relay how my patients are feeling regarding their treatment and any concerns they may have on their medications.

Once I completed my report, I say my farewells and introduce my patients to the incoming AM nurse who will receive my caseload. This is to ensure that my patient is aware of the shift change and that continuity of care is promoted.