Thursday, July 19, 2012

Psychiatric Nursing grad takes leadership role in mental health

Shannon Flannery
does not know the meaning of “slow day.”

Diploma in Psychiatric Nursing, Douglas College, 1994; Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing, Douglas College, 2010; Master of Psychiatric Nursing, Brandon University, ongoing

Coordinator, Vancouver Mental Health Emergency Services – a partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Police Department

What we do
“Mental Health Emergency Services provides urgent care to people in Vancouver who are experiencing a mental health crisis. When someone phones our 24-hour crisis line and it sounds like they need help, we provide support over the phone, or we might send a police officer and a psychiatric nurse to visit them to assess whether they need to go to the hospital or get set up with some kind of treatment. My team does the mental health assessment to make sure the client gets what they need. The police are concerned about containment and public safety.”

The circumstances
“It could be a person at home in distress and contemplating suicide, or a person with schizophrenia having fearful thoughts. We generally engage with the person over the phone and assess whether it’s warranted to go to their home and see them. If we do that, we'll do an onsite assessment to see what would be the best avenue for the client from a mental health perspective."

My focus
“The clinical aspects of the job and helping staff problem-solve through difficult cases. Oftentimes people who call us are in a crisis situation – they are not connected with mental health services such as a traditional mental health team, and this situation can be quite unsafe. That's part of the reason we're with the police. They will take over any really dire situations, and they ensure safety for everyone involved.”

The challenges
“I don’t know yet. I think that people who work in acuity are attracted to this line of work, so it’s hard to say what the challenges are. Being challenged is one of the joys of the job.”

On a slow day, I…
(laughs) “We don't have those! When we come into work we never know what the day is going to bring.”

We take care of our own, too
“Our staff has a unique skill set that involves making immediate assessments and decision-making, often during unpredictable situations. So we also pay attention to things like vicarious trauma – trauma we might experience because we are in such an acute situation. We see it all the time. So as well as looking after clients, we are also looking after staff who work in these environments.”

I keep my skills sharp
“It is absolutely essential that I understand what the nurses experience in their roles, so I try to get out on the road with them on a regular basis, just to keep up an understanding of what’s going on out there.”

The VPD connection
“The VPD is integral to this program. Their intention in helping people with mental illness is in complete alignment with our focus. The combination of their skills and our psychiatric nursing skills has proven to be highly successful in community treatment.”

Find out more about studying psychiatric nursing at Douglas by visiting our website