ANA Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation® Spotlight - Lynn Van Epps, MSN, APRN, ANP-C 4760

ANA Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation® Spotlight - Lynn Van Epps, MSN, APRN, ANP-C

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Nurse’s mental health background helps her find balance for herself and her patients

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Life is rarely a straight path — no one knows that better than #healthynurse Lynn Van Epps, MSN, APRN, ANP-C, nurse practitioner working with the senior population at Humana’s Conviva Care Center. But she’d also be the first to tell you that every stop along that path impacts who you become and what you have to offer those around you.

Lynn began her career as a case manager and then later became a mental health counselor, working with mentally disabled adults and neglected and abused children. Now, decades later, Lynn’s path brought her to work with seniors as a primary care nurse practitioner. She still relies heavily on her mental health training, though, to give her balance and guide her patient care.

“I look at life holistically and recognize the need for balance emotionally, spiritually, and physically,” Lynn says. “Life has been an interesting journey for me so far, with twists and turns that have taught me valuable lessons. My mental health background gives me the tools I need to create a focused and balanced lifestyle for myself and my patients.”

Charting a Course Focused on Helping Others
A career in health care always appealed to Lynn. She remembers having a hard time deciding between psychology and nursing in college.             

She initially chose psychology because she was drawn to understanding the “why” behind people’s behaviors and thoughts. “I wanted to help others find healthier ways to cope,” Lynn says, “rather than continuing down a path of negative behaviors and outcomes.” But at age 32, after becoming a licensed professional clinical counselor and spending years counseling children, she could no longer deny the call to become a nurse.

“I’ve always believed that physical health goes hand-in-hand with our mental and emotional well-being. We can’t address one without recognizing the other,” Lynn says. “I realized that with nursing, I could incorporate the mental health aspect of patient care with the physical aspect.”

Incorporating Her Past Experience Into Present Life
Lynn has come a long way since her time as a mental health case worker. As an RN, she spent time as a telemetry/medical surgical nurse and a home health nurse. After becoming a nurse practitioner, Lynn initially worked in a skilled nursing facility. Now, she cares for the aging population in an outpatient care center that addresses the health and social needs of senior patients with complex medical conditions.

While Lynn hasn’t formally counseled anyone in decades, her mental health training is invaluable to her work with seniors. It also enhances her ability to maintain balance in her own life. She relies on it to help her:

Identify ways to cope with stress
The road from mental health counselor to nurse practitioner was not easy. Lynn earned her nursing and master’s degrees as a single mom, working full-time. During those years, she realized the value of her mental health training.


“I could recognize when stress was setting in and knew how to address stressful situations,” she says. “I found a few healthy activities — such as meditating, yoga, and praying — that help me cope with that stress. I still try to do them consistently.”

Lynn adds that whatever helps you cope shouldn’t add to your stress. Don’t be hard on yourself and force yourself to meditate, walk, or journal daily. Just do it for a few minutes when you need it, want to, and have time. Recognize that even those few minutes are doing wonders for your mental health.

Set realistic expectations
Lynn’s early experience as a mental health counselor and then as a surgical nurse taught her to be flexible — especially with the expectations she sets for herself. Lynn gives herself grace as her days are often busy. It can be challenging to address the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual components of wellness on a daily basis.

“I’ve come to realize that we have to move along what I call ‘the waves in life,’” Lynn says. “Every day will not be perfect, and there will be ups and downs. When I have challenging days, I ask myself, ‘What can I cut out today that maybe isn’t necessary?’ or ‘What can I find time for tomorrow that will help me find balance?’”

Provide holistic care
As a mental health provider, Lynn remembers treating children who were in dire situations. Initially, she thought it would be hard for them to recover from that type of trauma. But those children had inner resources and positive attributes that allowed them to bounce back, overcome their challenges, and find ways to heal.

“When I see older patients now, I know that just because their health looks a certain way on paper does not mean they’re on a downward path,” Lynn says. “I remind them that we need to look at all the factors playing a role in their health and well-being.”

Lynn talks to patients about what they have going for them, what might need to change, and what support is available to help them. “I can take that approach,” Lynn says, “plus, I’m still addressing their lab work, imaging results, and medication. It all works together to play a role in their overall health.”

Lift those around her
Lynn makes it a point to be mindful and grateful whenever possible. It fosters a positive attitude, which shows through her work and interactions.

“Life and nursing can get stressful at times, so I know it’s important to be a supportive team member and that there are days I need support from others,” Lynn says. “I always want to be that coworker who lifts and supports others. I know that can be contagious in a work environment, and I’m all for that.”

Lynn Van Epps, MSN, APRN ANP-C, is a nurse practitioner working with the senior population at Humana's Conviva Care Center.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 05/29/2024 9:55am CDT

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The #healthynurse Spotlight is a shout out to nurses who are making changes in their lives to improve their health and wellness. You can too! Read their stories for inspiration here.

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