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Mental health nurses support clients in coping and finding stability

April  20, 2015

Sue MacRae and Patricia WoodsFor many people who live independently and are dealing with mental illness, mental health challenges continuously remain in the background. Though many of these individuals are able to maintain relationships and find work, and may otherwise appear healthy, they still require care.

“The clients we work with often feel like they are living in a constant state of crisis,” explained Patricia Woods, a mental health nurse at Women’s College Hospital (WCH). “Our goal is to help them find a sense of stability and to develop the resources they need to cope with situations.”

Nurses are an essential part of the care team at WCH. These health care providers work across the hospital’s three main mental health programs: Mental Health and Medicine, Reproductive Life Stages and Trauma Therapy. Mental health nurses are involved throughout a client’s recovery journey at WCH.

Mental health nurse Elaine Barrons triages cases related to the Reproductive Life Stages and Mental Health in Medicine programs, and coordinates general referrals. She gathers histories, prioritizes cases based on an individual’s symptoms and current situation, communicates with the referring practitioner and provides initial psycho- education.

“Because we provide ambulatory care, our team isn’t able to structure each client’s day completely or monitor them around the clock,” said Barrons. “We provide psycho- education from the beginning and match individuals with appropriate care providers so that they can manage their situations, outside of clinic hours.”

Many clients involved in the trauma therapy program benefit from individual counselling or group sessions – such as the Women Recovering from Abuse Program and the Resourced and Resilient Group – which are co-facilitated by mental health nurses. These groups explore themes related to the impact of past trauma and abuse. Certain programs – like the Trauma and the Body Group – look at the mind-body connection and healing the body.

For nurses in the mental health department – and others on the care team – the principles of sharing knowledge extend beyond the patient group. These nurses also supervise nursing students, participate in grand rounds and share expertise about trauma-informed care and mental health with other healthcare providers, across the hospital and community at large. These nurses also liaise with different agencies in the community so that they are able to direct clients, trainees and colleagues to appropriate mental health resources.

“Knowing that we are making a difference here is what makes this role so rewarding,” explained mental health nurse Sue MacRae. “Mental health is such a critical aspect to health – yet it’s often ignored. Our work with clients, students and other healthcare providers is focused on ensuring that mental health is addressed so that those who seek care are well supported.”

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