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Getting to Know: Psychiatric Nurse-Practitioner Heidi Kinnally
As a psychiatric nurse-practitioner, Heidi Kinnally has had a lot of experience with combat veterans and other populations. But when she saw an ad for a psychiatric nurse-practitioner in the Health Center at Syracuse University, she realized the college student population was one she would like to work with.
“This age group is an area of interest for me,” she says. “I find it fascinating because there are so many changes going on for this group in such a short period of time.”
Kinnally is New York State-licensed nurse-practitioner in psychiatry and a board-certified psychiatric family mental health nurse practitioner by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Before coming to the University, she worked at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and the VA Vet Center in Syracuse for eight years, with combat veterans and their families. There, she dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, poly-traumatic injuries and reintegration issues. She has experience in partial residential, inpatient and outpatient facilities around the Syracuse area.
She received an associate’s degree from St. Joseph’s College of Nursing in Syracuse; a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University; and a master’s degree from Walden University. She did post-master’s work at SUNY Upstate Medical University. She has taught psychiatry content to students at St. Joseph’s and in the SUNY Upstate physician assistant program. She also facilitated a joint training effort between the VA Vet Center and the Syracuse Police Department focusing on reintegration issues of combat veterans.
As a psychiatric nurse-practitioner, Kinnally sees her role as “listening to someone, getting their medical history, trying to find out what is contributing to their current symptoms.” While that may sometimes result in medication being prescribed, Kinnally offers medication only “if it’s appropriate, to reduce symptoms while the person is working at therapy.”
“I’m an advocate for therapy,” Kinnally says, “because I believe that medication is a small piece of what you can do. Enhancing coping skills is another big piece.” While Kinnally has experience in conducting therapy, that is not her primary role at the University. Here, she functions in partnership with the therapists at the SU Counseling Center, who conduct the formal therapy sessions.
This model is a good fit for Kinnally. “I’m a big advocate of collaborative care,” she says. “It’s the same as diabetes or heart problems. You get better care when your health care providers collaborate.”