The mental health nurse: Vital to accessibility, continuity, quality of care, and patient recovery

In her March 2013 editorial, OIIQ President Lucie Tremblay emphasized that Quebec’s 72 000 nurses are a force to be reckoned with, and asked them to combine their efforts in view of changing the health care system, adding, “as professionals, we must promote our expertise and make the most of it to ensure that the population has access to quality care.” There are over 4000 mental health and psychiatric nurses working at every level of the health system. By asserting their leadership, they can help better meet the increasingly complex needs of the population.

Since bills 90 and 21 were passed, the scope of practice has considerably increased for mental health nurses thanks to the recognition of activities that call upon their clinical skills and judgement. These activities mainly include the assessment of physical and mental conditions, clinical monitoring, follow-up nursing care for individuals with complex health problems, and more recently, the assessment of mental disorders. The enormous potential of this expertise remains widely unacknowledged and underused.

Therefore, optimal usage of nurses’ skills within primary care settings would have a significant impact on access to a timely health assessment and effective referral to appropriate services. Since nurses have an integrative view of the medical and psychosocial model, they are also able to adopt collaborative practices with their professional colleagues and provide patients with comprehensive and effective care. In this perspective, the development of collective prescriptions together with doctors and pharmacists should definitely be explored.

Furthermore, nurses can play a defining role in the continuity of care by acting as liaisons, consultants and responding professionals. As such, the integration of a nurse in a Family Medicine Group (FMG), or the addition of a liaison nurse in an emergency room would facilitate communication and prevent service interruptions.

The impact of living conditions on health greatly interests nurses because of the very nature of their profession. The diversity of interventions, especially with regard to health education, allows nurses to improve the quality of life of their patients, to guide them towards available resources and help them develop skills to manage their condition, emotions and relationships. Through their interventions, nurses acknowledge the ability of individuals to take over and maintain control of their life, thereby promoting recovery and full citizenship.

Depending on the expertise of mental health nurses can make a world of difference in many lives!


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