In the medical community, the subject of mental health care services in the United States is one that appears to be receiving more and more attention with questions surrounding the appropriateness and level of care that is being provided to patients. More and more individuals are seeking out therapeutic interventions for mental health related issues, but disparities still exist with regards to effective treatment interventions.
For many patients, it may take years before a diagnosis is given, and after which there may be trials of pharmaceutical interventions before one is found that adequately manages their symptoms. Receiving immediate mental health care services not only has an impact on the individual but also on the families, caregivers, and guardians that are involved in their ongoing—and often times lifelong—care. Among the various health care professionals who can play a role in this mission to achieve a desirable therapeutic outcome, nurses continuously play a pivotal role in the proper identification and reduction in the time it takes for patients to receive proper treatment.
The impact of receiving optimal mental health care services can be observed in the functionality and quality of life of the individual. Furthermore, it demonstrates how nurses can be viewed as patient advocates working towards the promotion of mental health services. The outcome of mental health care services that is provided to any given patient is largely dependent on the actions that are taken by the health care professionals who should be aware of the hallmark signs and symptoms that may be associated with a specific psychiatric episode. For example, an individual may present to an emergency room complaining of difficulty sleeping, visual as well as auditory disturbances, and possible mood fluctuations. The presence of both a trained physician along with a psychiatric trained nurse can lead to the immediate identification of these symptoms, diagnosis of what these cluster of symptoms might indicate, and the initiation of an appropriate therapeutic intervention.
Given the time sensitive nature of the event, it is of the utmost importance for the physician as well as the nurse to be mindful of possible diagnoses, but also rule out those that would not be applicable to the patient case. Nurses are becoming trained in the area of psychiatry as a result of the increasing rates of diagnoses as well as the expansion of their scope of practice. This growth in nursing serves to improve the level of care that individuals who present with mental health related issues can receive at any given location.
Regardless of the area of clinical expertise or practice setting, there are situations where every nurse can experience stress, and if he or she possesses effective coping skills they are able to overcome the distress before it escalates and causes significant impairment or dysfunction.
While great attention is given to maintaining one’s physical well-being in the health care profession, the importance of the maintaining one’s mental health can be under-recognized or neglected until it is too late. Similar to getting periodic physical health check-ups, the same should apply to one’s mental health.
In the health care profession, nurses can be faced with a myriad of patient cases or crises that can test both their physical and mental endurance and/or stability. It is important for every nurse to be cognizant of the status of his or her mental health, and an evaluation should be performed on an ongoing basis to ensure that one is in good health.
For any nurse engaged in clinical practice, there are five key things that he or she should be aware of as it pertains to their well-being:
1. It is important to periodically assess the status of one’s health.
For example, if one recognizes that they have been experiencing depressive or anxious symptoms for an extended period of time this should serve as an indicator that an issue may exist. Upon identification it is important for a nurse to immediately seek out the aid of a mental health profession to address the issue.
2. Recognize the importance of taking breaks during work to refresh from a particularly taxing or complex patient case.
During the course of any work day, it is important to take breaks to remove oneself from their stressful or high paced work environment to clear their mind.
3. Familiarize yourself with the key warning signs that may signal a mental health crisis.
These may include changes in behavior or thinking, lack of interest in activities that were once found to be pleasurable, or changes in sleeping pattern. These can serve as some of the signs that one’s mental health has been compromised and aid is needed.
4. Keep yourself up to date with the latest developments within the field of mental health.
This is particularly important since it not only affects you but the patients you care for as well. By staying up to date on latest developments within the field of mental health, a nurse is able to immediately identify situations that may have the potential to negatively impact their mental health or their patient’s.
5. Realize that some stress in life is inevitable.
Although the goal is to experience good mental health both on a personal and professional level, there may be a time when there can be a disturbance in one’s mental health, but knowledge, education, and insight can help to address this immediately before it causes impairment.