Debra Livingston, RN, took on the key role of Assistant Vice President, Patient Care Services, Psychiatry, almost ten years ago. What attracted her to the BronxCare Health System was the strong belief that she could truly make a difference in the lives of patients with psychiatric problems. “I was attracted by the fact that BronxCare is a Safety Net Health Care Provider, with an extraordinary record of accomplishments in responding to the needs of often poor and seriously mentally ill patients,” stated Ms. Livingston.
In her current role, Ms. Livingston and the nursing team have directed their efforts towards working with the interdisciplinary team to improve safety for patients and staff on the Psychiatric Inpatient Units. This includes reducing the use of restraints and avoiding the need for seclusion. “We are succeeding in teaching patients to practice coping skills on the units and in closely monitoring prescribed medications, with the aim of achieving a healing environment,” stated Ms. Livingston. She is also continually exploring opportunities to provide patients with more structure. “Busy minds and hands and meaningful therapeutic activities, including group activities, can achieve safer outcomes,” stated Ms. Livingston. As a result, Ms. Livingston and the staff have devoted their efforts towards forming therapeutic relationships and trust with their patients as quickly as possible. In the Comprehensive Psychiatry Emergency Program (CPEP), patients are assisted throughout their length of stay with the same nurse assigned to each for better continuity.
“Our nurses have a lot to offer patients,” stated Ms. Livingston. She sees Psychiatric nurses as having the opportunity to be creative and more “therapeutically engaged with patients,” when compared to the average medical or surgical nurse. “We serve as a listener and coach, and we provide hope,” stated Ms. Livingston.
For Ms. Livingston, her career started back at the University of Michigan, where she received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Nursing. She then served as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and following that position as Clinical Director, Psychiatric Nursing at the University of Iowa Hospitals. After 17 years at this facility, she moved on to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, assuming the role of Director, Stone Institute of Psychiatry and then becoming Director, Emergency Services for the next 13 years. Prior to joining the BronxCare Health System, she also served in a leadership capacity at Novant Health in Virginia.
“[Nurses] serve as a listener and coach, and we provide hope.”