Donna poole

Donna Poole, MSN, ARNP, PMHCNS-BC

Donna Poole has long been a nursing leader in Washington state, and she has led in so many different capac­i­ties: as presi­dent of the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion, as a founding member and leader of the Associ­a­tion of Advanced Practice Psychi­atric Nurses, as a 30-year affil­iate faculty member at the Univer­sity of Washington School of Nursing and as an appointed member of the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assur­ance Commission.

Those who have worked with Poole in these many capac­i­ties describe her as knowl­edge­able, ethical and profes­sional. A devoted teacher, preceptor and mentor. Someone who holds organi­za­tions together, a power broker and a peace­maker. As one colleague said, Everyone respects her.”

Poole received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from American Univer­sity in Washington, D.C. in 1971. During her senior year, she realized she had a special talent for psychi­atric nursing. Her first job was as a psychi­atric nurse at Sibley Memorial Hospital in D.C. She attained her master’s degree in psychi­atric nursing from the Univer­sity of Virginia in 1975 and discov­ered her love for teaching and mentoring students. She taught for one year at Catholic Univer­sity then moved west after accepting a faculty appoint­ment at the Univer­sity of Wyoming in Laramie.

In 1978, Poole moved to Seattle, first to work at Provi­dence, managing the psychi­atric unit. She later worked as a psychi­atric nurse at the VA at American Lake, followed by the Univer­sity of Washington Medical Center. For the next thirty years, from 1988 to 2018, Poole continued teaching and consulting as an affil­iate faculty member at the Univer­sity of Washington School of Nursing.

Poole’s career as a psychi­atric nurse progressed from inpatient services into inpatient manage­ment and consul­ta­tion in Seattle hospi­tals. Following that she moved onto commu­nity mental health at Kitsap Mental Health, where she held various manage­rial positions. After writing herself out of a job at KMH, a budget decision that allowed her younger colleagues to retain their jobs, Poole paused for a brief respite. The oppor­tu­nity to integrate mental health into primary care at Penin­sula Commu­nity Mental Health lured her back. One job was not enough. Poole’s commit­ment to under­served popula­tions led her to a accept a second, part-time, prescribing position for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Kingston, Washington.

Over the past forty years, first at Group Health, Kitsap Mental Health, and now at Penin­sula Commu­nity Mental Health, Poole has been a preceptor for many psychi­atric nursing graduate students.

Poole served as presi­dent of WSNA from 1885 through 1989, a tumul­tuous period during which WSNA lost the Group Health and Harborview Medical Center bargaining units to union raids. Poole’s steady leader­ship held the associ­a­tion together through those times of unrest. In 1987, WSNA honored Poole with the ANA Honorary Recog­ni­tion Award.

In 1982, Lois Price Spratlen, Oliver Osborne and Marilyn Whitley – all members of UW faculty – joined with a small group of advanced practice psychi­atric nurses working in Seattle, including Poole, to form the Associ­a­tion of Advanced Practice Psychi­atric Nurses (AAPPN). Expanding the scope of practice was central to the newly formed organization’s mission.

Poole chaired the AAPPN prescrip­tive authority task force, leading the battle for full prescrip­tive authority. It was a tense time that ended in a compro­mise that included a joint practice agree­ment. While AAPPN members were unhappy with the compro­mise, Poole convinced them to accept the agree­ment and continue fighting. Today’s newly minted psychi­atric nurses may take prescrip­tive authority for granted, unaware of the hard fought battles. However, all psychi­atric nurses in Washington state acknowl­edge that full prescrip­tive authority is an impor­tant part of their clinical practice.

Poole served as a pro tem member of the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assur­ance Commis­sion from July 2008 to June 2012, before being formally appointed to the commis­sion in September 2012. She continues in that role today.

Poole’s many awards and honors include the AAPPN Nurse of the Year award in 2000 and Nurse Excel­lence award in 2009. In 2010, she was named Clinical Preceptor of the Year by the Univer­sity of Washington School of Nursing.

On so many levels, Poole’s contri­bu­tions have advanced the practice of nursing in Washington state, and they will continue to do so far into the future. Her leader­ship at WSNA and AAPPN, her key role in the fight for full prescrip­tive authority for psychi­atric nurse practi­tioners, her guidance of count­less numbers of students, and the decisions she helps make as an NCQAC commis­sioner have shaped and will shape nursing and health care for commu­ni­ties across the state.