V.L. Franklin Conference on Psychiatric Manifestations of Physical Illnesses

One of my many great experiences throughout nursing school, and consequently one of my passions and interests, was my mental health/psychiatric clinical rotation. While working at the Behavioral Health Hospital, Peachford, I found that I truly enjoyed working with the populations there, especially the adolescent group. Because of this, I chose to attend the 2012 Virginia Lee Franklin Memorial Conference, hosted by the Emory University School of Nursing. This year’s topic was “Psychiatric Manifestations of Physical Illnesses.” Mental health and well-being assessment and treatment should be emphasized in every aspect of nursing, even if a nurse is not specifically working in a behavioral health facility.

The Virginia Lee Franklin Memorial Conference has been held by Emory’s School of Nursing every year for the past few years in honor of former Emory Nursing Student Virginia Lee Franklin. Ms. Franklin graduated from Emory in 1957 with a Master’s Degree in Nursing, with her expertise in neurology. The program brochure stated that she was well-known for being “an excellent teacher, an advocate for the nursing profession, and a compassionate nurse.” Originally, her parents started a fund in her honor, which has since grown into the present day Conference.

The “Psychiatric Manifestations of Physical Illnesses” topic covered the objectives of discussing psychiatric symptoms commonly seen with physical disorders, describing “red flag” physical symptoms that can be associated with psychiatric disorders, and examining specific physical illnesses commonly associated with psychiatric symptoms. The program faculty included the Dean of the School of Nursing, Dr. Linda McCauley, and the main speaker, Dr. Nzinga Harrison, Clinical Adjunct Faculty at Emory’s Department of Behavioral Health and Sciences. In addition, a variety of other well-known School of Nursing Professors and Clinical Faculty Members also participated on the planning committee. The majority of the attendees were nursing students or nurses in the community, with a wide variety of backgrounds. Some of the nursing specialty areas that were represented included: psychiatric, med/surg, neurology, rehabilitation, emergency room, social health, and advanced practice.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison provided an informative, engaging lecture on a variety of different symptoms, both physiological and psychological, in mental health and non-mental health patients. We learned about a variety of different factors that are associated between psychological and physical disorders. For example, we spent time discussing symptoms of Anxiety Disorders (such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), including: increased heart rate, insomnia, nightmares, decreased concentration, irrational thoughts, irritability, and hyper-vigilance, among others. One of the most important things that I learned was to document symptoms of any patient in terms of the following areas: physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. The vast majority of illnesses present with symptoms in a variety of these areas. Therefore, taking an assessment with this framework in mind will help to include as much information as possible in the diagnosis and treatment.

One of the greatest benefits of Emory is having such a strong, interdisciplinary group of schools and departments. In this instance, the School of Nursing and Dr. Harrison, from the Department of Behavioral Health and Sciences, worked together to share their strengths and knowledge with a variety of students and professionals. This Conference is one of many wonderful educational opportunities that nursing students are able to participate in throughout the year.

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