PhD, RN, APRN, PMHNP-BC
In an age of specialization and narrow-focused research, LaKeetra Josey is something of a maverick. From her student research to her current clinical practice, she’s committed to a wide and comprehensive understanding of client mental wellness and illness and a broad range of client treatment. It’s made her a careful observer, a constant integrator, and a very effective practitioner.
Her particular concern for the mental health of Black and minority youth can be traced both to a startling article and exceptional mentors. The article reported the remarkable finding that people with mental illnesses die, on average, 25 years younger than those without, most commonly of chronic medical conditions such as asthma or cardiac diseases. As a “nurse first,” LaKeetra recognized the unique roles nurses and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can have in providing person-centered care.
One mentor, and previous MFP fellowship recipient, was Dr. Bridgette Brawner, who LaKeetra met while studying at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, and who later supported her application to the Minority Fellowship Program, and served on her dissertation committee. Working under Dr. Mark Salzer in his research collaborative on supporting community integration for individuals with severe mental illnesses sparked LaKeetra’s interests in research, advocacy, and emphasized the importance of helping people recover in the ways and areas that are meaningful to them.
Another notable mentor was Dr. Freida Outlaw, who was the Program Director and interviewed LaKeetra for the BSN/MSN program at the University of Pennsylvania, and is another MFP alumna. LaKeetra went on to become the first graduate of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program. It was previously a Clinical Nurse Specialist program. And in a delightful twist, years later LaKeetra found herself reconnecting with Dr. Outlaw through the MFP program and following in her footsteps to serve as the Associate Program Director of the Psychiatric Advanced Practice Nurse Programs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
LaKeetra is now in the midst of an effort to continue the mentoring and support she and others experienced during their Fellowship years by working with a group of graduates to form the Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, Minority Fellowship Graduate Association, a 501(c)(3) organization. This new nonprofit will act as a shared space for former program participants to exchange information and experiences, as well as extend a supportive hand to those in need. “As students, and especially as minority students interested in psych/mental health,” she says, “many of us found ourselves in the roles of ‘first’ or ‘only’ and welcomed the feeling of camaraderie that the Minority Fellowship Program provided, the sense that we were never really alone. But now as we continue our careers, we’re still often breaking barriers and achieving firsts, and it’s encouraging to know that others are facing the same challenges and striving for the same goals.” LaKeetra says the mentorship from Drs. Outlaw, Bradley, and Brawner, to only name a few, continues to be an invaluable support and she is hopeful that other graduates will feel similarly supported through the Graduate Association.
One key to LaKeetra’s clinical success is adopting a model that provides a framework for understanding the complex interaction between the biological, psychological, and social factors that affect a person’s physical and mental health. This approach was honed by her education (BA – Rutgers, BSN/MSN/PhD – University of Pennsylvania) as well as her experience teaching and researching at Penn and Temple University, and her own clinical practices during the last six years. “Unlike other health/illness frameworks (e.g., the traditional biomedical model), this model provides a more comprehensive understanding of a person’s life experiences that contribute to their health status, not just the biological basis of illness/disease. This framework is consistent with the values of nursing, where we treat a person, not a diagnosis.”
As reasonable as this approach would seem to almost anyone, the compartmentalization of state licensing regulations meant LaKeetra could not offer her clients the full range of psychiatric and substance use disorder treatment services in one setting. Undeterred, she and her husband, Lamont, incorporated two entities, YOUr Center and the Phoenix Center for Health and Wellness, located just one floor from each other. During this past year, they provided services remotely via telehealth technology.
The pandemic has also brought to the fore an ongoing concern of LaKeetra’s; making sure that health providers are able to recognize their own mental health needs and seek care. “This past year,” she says, “has been especially traumatic, and we know that a lot of people, including providers, need to be able to access care. It could be helpful to have us be a provider for them because they would be talking to someone that has some understanding of the trauma that they’ve experienced.” She adds, “nursing, as a caring profession, can be both rewarding and stressful. Mental health can be impacted by the work that nurses do. That’s why it’s essential that we take care of ourselves in order to be able to take care of each other.”
Dr. Josey is available for talks and panel discussions. For information, please contact her here: firstname.lastname@example.org