Trevon Friar is Changing the Perception of Psychiatric Care
May 5, 2021
Trevon Friar, MSN '20, was on his way to being a physician. He was in a pre-med program with a plan mapped out until his grandmother needed help caring for his grandfather, who had fallen ill. In his heart, he knew he had to do it. Friar may have left school, but he did not leave his dream of being a health professional behind. He lovingly cared for his grandfather for three years while working as a certified nurse assistant. As he was about to restart his education in earnest, his mentor, a psychiatrist, explained advances in psychiatric care, putting an alternative path in motion.
Instead of returning to pre-med, Friar went to nursing school before coming to Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions for its nurse practitioner program. He chose psychiatry as his specialty because he understood the lack of experience and awareness of mental illness from a young age when his uncle was tragically shot during a psychotic break. "People are illiterate when it comes to mental illness, and often those with challenges are stigmatized. And because of what happened to my uncle, I wanted to understand schizophrenia and how the brain worked," Friar shared.
His curiosity and compassion grew while at Drexel. He admits that an online program gave him pause—he likes getting questions answered in real-time and having the professor in front of him—but quickly became enthusiastic. Friar shared that his professors never showed any irritation with the volume of questions he would ask. "Dr. Garcia knew how intrigued I was by psychiatry. She understood my desire to know the 'why' behind everything specifically from someone who's practicing," he remembers. Friar was frustrated after failing the first exam in his specialty, and when he emailed Garcia asking if they could set up a one-on-one, she responded within ten minutes. The two talked the next day about one particular scenario on the test, and it is one lesson that sticks with him to this day. "A patient presented with depression, so I started with the standard SSRI treatment. I neglected the patients the other symptoms that indicated bipolar disorder," he said. Friar remains very grateful to Garcia because, if this were real, "I could have harmed the patient because I wasn't listening. I've never told her that, but I will now."
That example, being included in treatment decision-making and receiving compliments about his understanding of mental illness, reaffirms his choice to attend Drexel. The psychiatrists Friar works with will frequently tell him that his knowledge is beyond what they'd expect from an NP, and other psychiatric nurse practitioners often ask him where he went to school because they weren't taught many of the things he knew. All this preparation helps him explain 'why' and process the things causing his patients to want to end their lives or hurt others. His personal mission is to be a highly responsive, kind psychiatric care provider, so his patients know they have someone who genuinely cares about them in their corner. "I want to know I helped someone feel better about themselves today and that I gave them hope and the motivation to continue forward so they can be their best—for their family, their friends, their children," Friar stated.
He also is determined to educate others, health professionals in particular, and to destigmatize mental illness. It is this lack of awareness that perpetuates ignorance, like in the situation with his uncle. When hospital colleagues say he deals with "crazy people," Friar is quick to correct them. "I point out that the illness my people have is of the brain just like pulmonology is lungs and cardiology, the heart. Then I ask them not to speak about my patients like that again," he asserted.
These are just a couple of instances demonstrating the uniqueness of CNHP's Master of Science in Nursing and its psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specialty. Friar readily shares advice with anyone contemplating a similar path. He will say to pursue what they love in nursing—nurse leadership, women's health, pediatrics, gerontology, etc.—because doing what they love will make them extraordinary clinicians in their specialty. "Of course, I'm biased. Psychiatry is the best specialty with too few practitioners, and Drexel has the most exceptional program. It made me the clinician I am today and a champion of psychiatric care for my patients," he concluded.
Trevon Friar, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP-BC, graduated in June 2020 and works at HCA Physician Services Group, Psychiatry in Tampa, Florida, providing in- and outpatient psychiatric–mental health services.U.S. News & World Report ranks the College of Nursing and Health Professions #3 in Nurse Practitioner – Psychiatric Mental Health.
Written by Roberta S. Perry