Nursing Notes

April 17, 2012

Mental illness means higher risk of physical problems

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 1:08 pm
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Here’s an article from that talks about a study showing a correlation between mental health and physical health.  As a psychiatric nurse, I have always know that my patients have a higher risk of certain physical diseases.  It’s amazing to me that it has taken so long for others to notice and try to figure it out.

Asthama, diabetes, hypertension, and even strokes are common Axis III diagnoses for inpatient mental health patients of all ages.  There has to be a reason for this correlation.  Maybe now there will be more studies to try to figure out the connections.  I can only hope so.

Please read this excerpt of the article and click over to to read the rest.  It’s worth your time and effort to do so.  While there, check out some of the other articles they have about current nursing issues.


Adults who had a mental illness in the past year have higher rates of certain physical illnesses than those not
experiencing mental illness, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
For example, 21.9% of adults in a SAMHSA national survey who experienced any mental illness (based on
diagnostic criteria specified in DSM-iv) in the past year had hypertension. Meanwhile, 18.3% of those without any
mental illness had hypertension.
And 15.7% of adults who had any mental illness in the past year also had asthma, while 10.6% of those without
mental illness had the condition.
Adults who had a serious mental illness (a mental illness causing serious functional impairment that
substantially interferes with one or more major life activities) in the past year also showed higher rates of
hypertension, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke than did people who did not experience serious mental
Adults experiencing major depressive episodes (periods of depression lasting two weeks or more including
significant problems with every-day aspects of life such as sleep, eating, feelings of self-worth, etc.) had higher
rates of the following physical illnesses than those without major depressive episodes in the past year:
hypertension (24.1% vs. 19.8%), asthma (17% vs. 11.4%), diabetes (8.9% vs. 7.1%), heart disease (6.5% vs.
4.6%) and stroke (2.5% vs. 1.1%).
The report also shows significant differences in ED use and hospitalization rates in the past year between adults
with mental illness in the past year and those without. For example, 47.6% of adults with serious mental illness
in the past year used EDs, as opposed to 30.5% of those without past-year serious mental illness. Adults with
past-year serious mental illness were more likely to have been hospitalized than those without (20.4% versus
11.6% respectively).
“Behavioral health is essential to health. This is a key SAMHSA message…[read more]

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April 29, 2011

Confessions of a Psych Nurse

Here is an article I found on NurseTogether that absolutely blew me away.  As a psych nurse for over 20 years, I can empathize and sympathize with this author.  She speaks my thoughts.  It is amazing.  I immediately emailed her for permission to repost this article here for you to read and enjoy.  Won’t you let me know how you feel about the things she has to say?  Please click over to her website and read some of her other posts and maybe leave her a comment while you are there.


A Nurse Confesses:  There is no way to work on a psych ward of a mental hospital and not learn something about life; I have met some of the strangest and most original individuals.  When people find out where I work, and have worked for almost 22 years, their mouths hangs open in awe.  Most of the time the phrase, “I don’t know how you do it” is mentioned, as they shake their heads.

 I confess there are things about working in a mental health institution that I do not like, and there are times when I have to bite my tongue and keep my lips glued together because I become so agitated.  I thought I would list for you my dislikes and explain later what I have learned.  Deep breath…here I go.

 I dislike when someone comes into the hospital just so they can get a check (aka crazy check) when they are clearly healthy but truly too damn lazy to work.

 I dislike when someone is purely and simply mean spirited and uses their diagnosis of being mentally ill as an excuse to cling to.

 I dislike when prisoners come in and break furniture, hurt the staff, share their rude and unintelligent slurs to the staff and demean them, because they have nothing to lose and will be going back to jail.

 I dislike an addicted individual who tries to use their mental illness to be prescribed Benzo to feed their habit, and then becomes demanding when they are told no.

 I dislike restraining someone in the bed.  It makes my heart hurt to see someone, or have to place someone, in that situation.  Even though I know at the time it has to be done – everything else has been exhausted – sometimes it is necessary to protect the staff and the patient. 

 I truly dislike calling a doctor who blows off the fact that the nursing staff have already tried many measures before calling him in the middle of the night for more help, and he refuses it because he doesn’t think it is needed.  I also dislike that he feels he shouldn’t have to come to the unit to observe what is going on, leaving the staff in harm’s way.

 I dislike a doctor who comes to the unit during a high risk situation and hides behind the female staff for protection.  I am not a shield; I am a nurse with a family, just like he has.

 I dislike staff who forget how blessed they are and that they have a home to go home to, when a patient is crying because they are homesick and cannot return to their home.

 I dislike not being able to help a patient understand what he/she is seeing – climbing the walls is part of their illness and not real – but they can clearly can see something there.

 I dislike looking into someone’s eyes and seeing pain, hurt, and loneliness – lost souls that I cannot help.  I really dislike that feeling.

 When a new patient comes onto the unit, I like to learn about who they are, not who the chart says they are.  I want to know where they used to work, where they went to school, how many brothers and sisters they have, and whether they are married and/or have children.  I have found that when I approach a patient as a person, rather than as a patient, they open up and let down the walls that they come in with.  I get to peep inside of their lives for just a moment.  I dislike when staff forget that the people we serve had a life before they arrived on our unit.  They attended school, had some kind of home, they have a mother, father, wife, husband, and/or children.  We have all made some really crappy choices in life – we may not have landed in jail or in a mental hospital, but there were choices made along our path.

 I confess – my psych patients have taught me a lot about life.  I have not always liked working in chaos and in hazardous and dangerous situations, but I have always liked talking to the ones I meet.  They have showed me that we are all one step away from the admission office when life hands us more than we can bear.  They have taught me that just because I cannot see delusions and hallucinations doesn’t mean they are not real.  They have taught me the feelings of real compassion for another human when they cannot help themselves.  They have taught me that being with family is not always the safest place to be.  At times, families hurt family members deeper than a stranger does.

I confess – my life has been changed by a mentally insane person.  Just think…yours could be too.

About the Author: For the first 5 years online, Angela Brooks spent her time in network marketing e-commerce with health products. In the last year, she has followed her passion where she has worked for over 21 years in the same state funded psychiatric hospital, working in a dangerous acute psychiatric ward.

Angela also runs her own company on the side and supports other nurses in how to bring passion into their role at work. Visit

Click here for more information on Angela Brooks.

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April 15, 2011

Nurse Dies After Assault At Cape Mental Health Center

As a mental health nurse, of course, this article held some significance for me.  But the problem discussed here–death and physical damage done to nurses during normal work hours–really belongs to all of nursing.  I don’t think about the potential for being hurt when I get up each morning, but the truth of the matter is that I deal with a very volatile population and that staffing for this type of patient is never adequate.  99% of the people I care for would never, ever hurt me or any other person; dispite having a mental illness.  It is that 1% that I have to worry about.  My difficulty is in identifying them in time to protect myself.

My heart goes out to this nurse’s family.  My heart goes out to this nurse’s workmates.  There is nothing quite a scary to a mental health team as the death of one of their own while at work.  I hope that hospital provides the staff with some type of counseling to deal with this event.

Here is the article.  Please read the entire article and feel free to visit the original site to leave a comment there.  Please leave me a comment if you have any thoughts about this article.


April 14, 2011 11:13 AM

Cape Cod & the Islands Community Mental Health Center in Pocasset. (photo courtesy: David G. Curran/

Cape Cod & the Islands Community Mental Health Center in Pocasset. (photo courtesy: David G. Curran/

POCASSET (CBS) – The death of a nurse at a Cape Cod mental health center may mean new charges for the patient suspected in the crime.

Back in late March, 60-year old Jason Lew, a nurse at the Cape Cod and islands Community Mental Health Center, was assaulted by a patient. Lew’s injuries were so serious he was brought to several different hospitals before he died last Friday.

“There was some kind of an altercation. The nurse who subsequently died was assaulted during the course of the altercation,” said Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.

O’Keefe said the suspect was immediately arraigned on assault charges, but depending on what the medical examiner finds, more charges could follow.

“It was a couple days later that the individual was deceased. So, it’s that full sequence of events that is the subject of an investigation to see what, if any, other charges might be appropriate,” said O’Keefe.

If the assault is found to have played a role in Lew’s death, it would make it the third worker in a local mental health center to have been killed by residents in the past four months.

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July 27, 2010

Self-Care Program May Help Nurses Manage Stress

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 3:49 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s an interesting article about a study that was done to try to reduce stress in working nurses.  I say it is interesting because up until now no one really wanted to address this issue; instead job stress for nurses was always “the elephant in the room” that nobody ever talked about.  Maybe this issue is becoming important because of the push for better and safer staffing.  Maybe the thought is that if stress is decreased, then staffing would seem adequate.  Not so.  Nursing is a stressful job, period.  I also noticed that the title talks only about managing stress, not reducing it.  I hope you read this article and I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.  This particular article comes from Modern  Visit that site and leave them a comment if you feel like it.


Psycho-educational program appears to positively impact emotional exhaustion levels

MONDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) — A psycho-educational self-care program that helps nurses develop stress management plans may be useful in improving emotional exhaustion levels, according to a study in the August issue of Applied Nursing Research.  Kate Kravits, R.N., of the City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., and colleagues evaluated a psycho-educational program for nurses that included discussion of nursing-specific risk factors, practice with relaxation techniques, and exploration through art. The researchers used the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), Draw-a-Person-in-the-Rain Art Assessment, and wellness plans to examine quantitative and qualitative measures of stress and burnout before and after the program.

The investigators found that emotional exhaustion subscale scores on the MBI were high for 38 percent of the participants prior to the program, decreasing to 26 percent of the participants after the program. In addition, depersonalization scores were high for 13 percent of the respondents prior to the program, decreasing to 9 percent after the program. Pre-program perceptions of personal accomplishment scores were low for 45 percent of the participants, increasing to 52 percent of the participants after the program.

“Psycho-educational interventions, including discussion of nursing-specific risk factors, practice with relaxation techniques, and exploration of coping patterns via art, show promise as methods to promote positive self-care strategies,” the authors write. “Further research is needed particularly in the area of promoting enduring change in self-care behaviors.”

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January 13, 2010

Split Shift Living Learn how to maintain healthy relationships while working second and third shifts.

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 6:45 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a useful article about ways to juggle life when you work 2nd or 3rd shift.  This is always a difficult job and it is very difficult to have a life on those shifts.  Read below because she does have some good suggestions on how to manage.  The bottom line, though, is knowing what is important and valuable to you and then working your schedule around that.
By Amanda Koehler

Second- and third-shift workers have to find time to squeeze certain activities into abnormal times to fit their schedules such as sleeping, eating and exercising. Although it may be difficult to find time to do these things, nurses can figure out when works best for them and get themselves into a routine.

However, maintaining relationships while on second or night shift cannot be done independently. Plus, sometimes family members and friends just don’t get what it’s like to work a different shift. They wonder why you can’t return their phone calls at night (you’re working!) or why you can’t join them for brunch (you’re sleeping!).

Sometimes having to operate on a different schedule than your loved ones means you might miss out on a soccer game or a birthday party. Or sometimes you may feel tempted to sacrifice sleep to spend more time with your partner or kids.

For those who live in the second- or night-shift world, connecting with family and friends can be difficult. But there are ways to make maintaining these relationships as easy as possible under the circumstances.

Maintaining a Connection
How can you keep your friendships going and spend time with your family while working second or third shift? Get out your calendar, folks; it’s all about planning.

“Plan very carefully. Spontaneous get-togethers may have worked before, but they probably won’t now,” said Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. “Schedule times in advance to be together, and keep your agreements and appointments.”
Staying connected comes in different forms, too. With the invention of social networking media such as Facebook and MySpace, it also has been easier for those working off shift to keep up with their friends and extended family members. It’s important to find out what types of communication work best for you and your loved ones.

For example, if you feel comfortable doing so, it may help to sit your family members and friends down and explain how your life functions while working second or night shift.

Also, if you know there is an event for your child or friend you can’t miss, make sure you, once again, plan ahead.  If all else fails, take a vacation day.

What happens when you absolutely, positively cannot make it to an important game, party or occasion? Tessina recommends having someone videotape the event and then watching it with your loved one later. “You get to share in the moment in that way,” she said.

Sacrificing Sleep?
Working evening or night shifts can already wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm. So should you sacrifice some sleep to spend time with family and friends? Many off shift workers unfortunately see a need to so they can keep up with their loved ones.

Tessina thinks it’s all right to occasionally get less sleep in exchange for more quality time, but not to do it on a regular basis. “If you do it too often, you’ll start to have problems on and off the job, be cranky and lose energy. None of that will help your relationships,” Tessina noted.

Amanda Koehler is assistant editor of ADVANCE.

Sidebar: A ‘Commuter Marriage’

Couples working different shifts actually have a type of “commuter marriage,” because they see each other so little. If you’re spending most of your time apart due to shift changes, chances are it’s so far from your original expectations of marriage that you don’t really know how to handle it.

You may be squabbling about being stuck with all the household chores while your partner pines away in a distant location; or you’re the one who’s all by yourself every night away from home, and you both may be feeling all the intimacy and partnership gradually draining out of your relationship, leaving you with an empty shell where your marriage used to be.

Spouses at home during the day deal with all the household problems: plumbing that doesn’t work, financial decisions to make, all the child rearing and discipline, and all the chores usually shared by two. Spouses at home at night are lonely, isolated and feeling out of touch with family.

You’ve heard a lot from various experts about how important communication and intimacy are to the health and survival of your relationship. But they don’t talk about how to stay in touch when you barely see each other. Phone calls, e-mails, photos and instant messages help, but it’s hard to feel as close when you don’t see each other. It’s also difficult to make joint decisions when one of you doesn’t experience the problems your partner is facing.

If one of you works a “graveyard shift” or rotating shift job that limits your time together, both of you can feel as if you’re separated for extended periods. Schedule juggling can present an enormous problem in this situation, because you are not always in control of when you’re required to be away from home. When you don’t see each other for much of the time, you must solve problems about how the household chores will be handled, bills will be paid, and children and pets will be cared for.

The other major problem with two different schedules is finding time to be at home together. It also is possible to have so much to catch up on when you’re home that there is little time for the two of you to reconnect. When your schedules mesh well, it means one of you can take care of things while the other is gone, and you get enough time together to enjoy each other and feel like a family.

When it works well, this type of alternate commuting can make it possible to have two incomes and still care for children, family members and household responsibilities.

If separate shifts are a long-term situation, your situation offers some benefits and some problems. The benefits are you have time to establish a routine, support systems and even develop a re-entry system that works. The problems, of course, are you are spending a lot of time apart, and keeping your connection and intimacy feeling fresh is not easy. Long-term schedule problems present transition problems because you need to plan for long-term solutions, such as:

Household maintenance: If you are working different shifts, you may need to change your expectations about how well your house or yard will be maintained in one partner’s absence. The dayshift partner may not have enough time or expertise to get it all done alone. The nightshift partner might have to sleep most of the daylight hours. Neither of you have a lot of time for maintenance and housekeeping. If your budget permits, you can pay for some of the maintenance jobs (lawn mowing, basic housekeeping) that neither of you has time for.

Ongoing childcare: Often children are the main reason for splitting shifts in the first place, so at least one parent can be home when the kids are. Keeping on the same page about parenting issues can be tough.

Social networks and support: You might find having a social life is difficult, but most couples need the support of friends and family. You may have to do your social activities on split shifts, too.

New routines for meals, cooking, shopping: If you don’t cook and your partner is not at home, eating and feeding your family can present another problem. For the short term, eating take-out or in restaurants can work OK, but in a long-term situation, you’ll find you may have to develop new resources of food or abilities to cook. A partner who is used to shopping and cooking for two may find eating alone becomes a problem. While this is a great time to go on that diet you’ve wanted to try but haven’t because your partner isn’t on it, it does require some uncomfortable adjustment and rethinking.

Ways to communicate about marriage business: If you’re on split shifts for a long period of time, you may need to find a different way to make decisions about bill paying, hiring help and budgeting. Especially if one partner is sometimes incommunicado at work, the at-home partner needs to have the ability and permission to make occasional unilateral decisions. This can create an uncomfortable change in the power structure of your partnership.

How to stay emotionally close: When the time you have together is scarce for a long period of time, you need to change your routines for keeping in contact and maintaining a strong emotional connection. Splitting shifts for an extended period can be very lonely for both partners, and even if you have close family relationships or strong friendships, it doesn’t replace “pillow talk,” physical affection and shared experience. Making your split shift marriage work begins with getting as realistic a picture of your situation as you can, and then making plans to solve each problem you envision, as well as learning to solve new issues arising on the spot.

– Tina B. Tessina, PhD

You can read the original article here with all the comments.

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January 7, 2010

Homeless coalition considering cuts in health care

Image by roberthuffstutter via Flickr
I know that everyone is scrambling to balance their budgets and I am intelligent enough to know that cutbacks in programs are inevitable.  However, cutting entire programs seems like “biting off your nose to spite your face”.  Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to simply scale back all public programs across the board instead of simply demolishing programs that deal with the helpless, the unwanted, the unrepresented?
Nursing has always fought to get adequate care for the needy.  In this period of recession and joblessness, isn’t it our duty to fight for these programs?  Where is our voice in the legislature?  Where is our grass-roots movement to stop victimizing the victims of our times?
denver and the west

Posted: 12/30/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

Faced with the loss of $3.4 million in state funding, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is considering cuts to programs, including elimination of a mobile clinic that has provided care to more than 2,200 people this year.

The nonprofit organization said Tuesday that it will cut 21 percent of its budget for health and mental- health care by eliminating some services now offered to metro-area homeless.

“This will cost the state and local government more money as these homeless families and individuals are forced into emergency care,” coalition president John Parvensky said.

The nonprofit organization’s board will meet Tuesday to decide which programs to either trim back or ax.

Among the possible cuts:

• Elimination of its mobile health clinic, which travels the metro area caring for the homeless.

• Reduction in hours at its Stout Street Clinic, which provides medical and mental-health care.

• Elimination of a respite program that provides emergency shelter and nursing services for homeless people discharged from hospitals but still needing care.

• Closure of its residential programs for homeless women and for individuals recovering from addictions.

The cuts are coming at a time when homeless advocates say a troubled economy is pushing more people out of homes and onto the streets.

“Our Stout Street Clinic will still be in operation and will still have a staff in place, but we are turning people away as it is, and we will turn away more,” Parvensky said.

Indigent people who can’t get medical help elsewhere frequently find themselves at Denver Health Medical Center.

Hospital spokeswoman Betty Rueda said the elimination of medical services is a concern.

“Any health care services that are no longer available for Denver residents put a little more pressure on Denver Health, which is already at high capacity,” she said.

The state continues to grapple with a budget shortfall that so far has topped $1.5 billion over two years.

Besides cutting funding to the coalition, lawmakers have sliced funding for higher education, delayed the opening of a new prison and wrung savings from state employees through unpaid furloughs.

Parvensky hopes the legislature will eliminate enterprise-zone and other tax credits and funnel some of the savings to the coalition.

Allotments from the state’s settlement of a suit against tobacco companies helped fund some of the coalition’s health programs, he said. However, much of that money has gone into the state’s general fund, and Parvensky would like to get some more of it.

Even if the health care bill now in Congress becomes law, he said, it will be several years before insurance is available for many of the homeless who rely on the Stout Street Clinic.

Patient Dean Werner, 24, said he would tumble into a danger zone where, without the drugs and psychiatric care he receives at the clinic, he would be a threat to himself and others.

“It helps to have the meds; they help keep me centered,” Werner said. “I have odd moments where I just go off to nowhere. It has gotten me in trouble with the law.”

Bobbie Woods, 56, who is treated at the clinic for a range of medical and mental-health problems, said she doesn’t know where she will go if the budget cuts limit her treatment.

“It’s difficult,” she said.

Tom McGhee: 303-954-1671 or

Read more:

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December 20, 2009

Health Promotion in Nurses: Is There a Healthy Nurse in the House?

This article is a survey summary from Medscape Psychiatry and Mental Health.  I found this interesting and thought you might enjoy it also.  Caregivers, as a rule, do not ever take care of themselves; they are “other” focused and this can lead to burn-out and illness.  As nurses, we are failing at “walking the walk” but we are great at “talking the talk”.  We frequently give our patients education on stress reduction, good diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyles.  This study seems to point out that we nurses must not be listening.

Working in healthcare is very stressful and very demanding, both emotionally and physically.  We should be looking for ways to support and strengthen our nurses to facilitate the ability to continue doing the work they love.

McElligott D, Siemers S, Thomas L, Kohn N
Appl Nurs Res. 2009;22:211-215

Study Summary

As nurses focus on the health of their patients, families, and communities, are they practicing health-promoting behaviors for themselves? Is there a healthy nurse in the house?

Pender’s Health Promotion Model is a framework often used in nursing research to examine the factors that promote health. This framework integrates nursing and perspectives from behavioral sciences into factors that may influence health behaviors. Health promotion is defined as a behavior that is “motivated by the desire to increase well-being and actualize human health potential.” This actualization is possible through competent self-care, goal-directed behavior, and harmony with the environment, including interpersonal relationships. Health promotion is differentiated from disease prevention as a result of its motivational dynamics. Whereas prevention is disease or injury specific in its approach, health promotion seeks to expand the potential for health.

The model has 2 dynamic and reciprocal phases. The decision-making phase includes the individual perceptions and modifying factors. The action phase includes the barriers and cues that trigger activity. This conceptual framework targets characteristics for assessment and suggests interventions to alter perceptions and improve health-promoting behaviors. Nursing self-care may easily be influenced by several of the model’s propositions: (1) perceived barriers can hinder commitment to action; (2) peers and situational influences in the environment can increase or decrease commitment to participation in health promotion behavior; and (3) commitment is less likely to occur when uncontrollable competing demands require attention.

The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the health-promoting lifestyle behaviors of acute care nurses using the health promotion model.

This study used an anonymous, convenience sample of registered nurses (RNs) working in a tertiary hospital. The sample included the nursing staff working in the cardiac and neuroscience services in medical, telemetry, and critical care units. Surveys were available to 500 RNs working on the cardiac and neuroscience services. In 1 month, 149 surveys were returned (a 30% return rate).

Statistical analysis of 149 returned Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile II surveys indicates areas of weakness in stress management and physical activity. No significant differences were found in unit, demographic factors, and subscale scores at the .01 level of significance, but medical-surgical nurses consistently scored better than the critical care nurses on health promotion.

These findings support the need for the development of holistic nursing interventions to promote self-care in the identified areas. Strategies include educational/experiential classes in holistic nursing; individualized unit-based activities that foster stress management, such as massage, reflexology, and imagery; and development of an employee wellness program.

Holistic caring and nurturing of self support a healthy balance and increase productivity and a fuller participation in the life experience. Support of this paradigm shift to an emphasis on self-care provides the energy for nurses to enhance their care of patients, families, and communities.


This article tackles directly the question of whether nurses do as they teach. It is nurses who talk to patients about “taking care of themselves” and how to manage stress, and reduce risk factors by exercising and losing weight. This article documents what nurses themselves have often said: “We need to do the same things we are telling our patients.”

Why don’t nurses exercise and manage stress better? For the same reason that patients don’t do it — a lack of time. Everyone seems to be stressed in life; no one seems to have enough time to exercise and do the things that mean we are taking care of ourselves. How can we get our patients to be motivated and make the commitment when we ourselves do not?

First, nurses have got to take a good look at themselves. This study takes the first, small step by saying that we have to change. Too often nurses act as though the statistics don’t apply to them, nor do the protocols and guidelines that we expect patients to follow. Too often we are too busy caring for others to care for ourselves.

No one else is going to take care of the caregiver. It is a fundamental lesson, long overdue.

The original article can be found here.

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November 25, 2009

The Making Of A Mental Health Professional

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 12:29 am
Tags: , , , ,

As a psychiatric nurse, I naturally read articles about psych. nursing and usually come away with more questions or with feelings of being undervalued.  Here is an posting I found on a blog that I think is excellent in the description of what it takes to be a mental health professional, or just a mental health nurse.

After reading the list, I think these points apply to just about anyone who wants to be in a “helping” profession.

Read the following list and let me know what you think about this.  Is this pretty accurate or not?


I was thinking of all the common characteristics that make up a good mental health worker in my opinion and came up with the following list:

1. Real Life Experience – No book has ever been written that can truly cover what it is like to be at your absolute bottom, to fight for your own life, to understand the emotional turmoil that shows up when the people who are suppose to love you turn around and stab you in the back. There is good reasons why a high number of drug and alcohol counselors are recovered addicts.

2. The Ability To Empathize – Basically to have a heart. If you are unable to feel what the client is expressing then you have no business being in this field. I am not a book or a diagnosis but a person who would love to be cured but even more important I need you to understand where I am coming from and what I am feeling.

3. The Ability To Think Outside Of The Box – Not everyone with depression or any other disorder is going to respond to the same treatment. This field is not like an office where every time problem A shows up the person uses solution A to fix it. The worker needs to see the situation from every possible angle to come up with the best course of action. The DSM is a book of guidelines regarding a diagnosis not a set of instructions.

4. Nonjudgmental – During on of the first classes I took in college the teacher asked who in the room would not treat sex offenders and child molesters. When a couple of people raised their hands the professor responded “Then you should not be in this field for every single person who has a mental or behavioral problem deserves to be treated and seen as a fellow human being who deserves help”. The ability to see the person behind the illness is essential for if all you see is the problem then nothing will be accomplished.

5. Consistent – A major problem with mental illness is it tends to be chaotic with everything in the persons life in a constant state of change. The worker needs to be a rock instead of another piece in the clients life that is unpredictable.

Well I believe that the above criteria are essential to anyone in the mental health field. Any others? Take care.

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