Providing Québec with specialized mental health nurse practitioners seems like an obvious choice!
In 2011, five universities within the Université du Québec network (UQ) introduced a master’s of nursing program in mental health and psychiatric care. Like the nurse practitioners specialized in primary care or other fields, the role of the nurse practitioner in mental health and psychiatry seems obvious. Unfortunately however, it does not seem so obvious to many in government and even less so among our psychiatrist colleagues. Many difficult questions have been raised about what type of nursing should be given priority; should a title be created for the specialized nurse practitioner rather than hoping that specialized mental health nurse practitioners will hold a place of their own, or will either ever see the light of day because of the confusion surrounding these employment categories?
The UQ network began its master’s program in spite of the uncertainty that remains concerning the future development of advanced mental health practice in Québec. Was it a good decision? Let’s not forget that many nurses expressed their need for mental health training. The idea was to offer a high-quality, discipline-based program at the graduate level that was better adapted than an accumulation of under-graduate certificates or other diplomas in related fields. It was crucial for the objectives of this program to be coherent with the ministry of health and social service’s new orientations that were, without a doubt, transforming the health care system. Furthermore, the program could build upon the nurses’ qualifications as revealed by significant research conducted by the Québec order of nurses (the OIIQ) that had brought together experts from various clinical and academic disciplines. The current master’s program carefully prepares nurses to contribute efficiently in dealing with the challenges created by the population’s considerable and complex mental health needs. It is perfectly coherent with the recommendations and concrete actions that were prompted by the eloquent 2012 Health and Social Services System Performance Report.
Nearly 70 students were accepted to the master’s program, from which eight expect to graduate in April 2014. They will be authorised to evaluate mental health troubles. With complementary training or according to their experience, the graduates could become psychotherapists. Many have undertaken this demanding program involving 495 hours of training and 540 hours of internship in hope of one day becoming a specialized mental health nurse practitioner. At the same time, many psychiatrists and doctors would like to work with them in order to increase access to high-quality mental health care. The conditions will come together towards the realisation of this project that would be beneficial to all stakeholders, insomuch as the forces in government assume a strong leadership role and that doctors and psychiatrists seize the opportunity.