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Why Talking About Mental Health Matters

Advancing Culturally Competent Care
March 10, 2016
Why Talking About Mental Health Matters

Angela Mackay, MSN, BSN, PHN, RN, started the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) in 2014 at Regions Hospital in Saint Paul, Minn. PERT is made up of experienced mental health staff trained to intervene in the medical-surgical inpatient setting. Since the program began 26 months ago, Mackay and her team have trained 190 healthcare workers on how to respond to mental health crisis situations, including appropriate use of psychiatric medications and how to reduce the use of restraints.

For her work with PERT, Mackay received the 2015 Innovation Award from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. Throughout her 25 years working in healthcare, Mackay has worked with patients in brain injury rehabilitation, medical-surgical, neurology and mental health units in the U.S. and the U.K. Mackay is a candidate for a Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Walden University in St Paul, Minn. and is on track to graduate in May 2016.

NN: What was the biggest personal reward of developing the PERT system?

Angela: Personally, one of the best rewards was being able to lead a nurse practice change successfully in a Level 1 Trauma Hospital. Since implementing PERT, there have been no patient or staff injuries while the team is present and assisting with crisis situations on the non-mental health units. My work was recognized nationally in 2015 for innovation by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and I also received the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award for mental health in Minnesota!

NN: How did you work with hospital administration to launch your program?

Angela: I needed support and collaboration from my management and the leadership of Regions Hospital to implement transformational change. Fortunately, my manager was open to discussing innovative ideas. My goal was to use existing structures to highlight the problem, educate and implement improvements. My manager approached the hospital leadership, who gave authorization to develop and implement the program.

NN: What do you see as nurses’ role in transforming healthcare?

Angela: Nurses play an incredibly valuable role in transforming healthcare. Because of the close patient-nurse relationship and interaction, nurses use observational skills, compassionate care and evidence-based knowledge to provide the best care and the best experience for each patient. They are both the frontline staff, as well as the people focused on developing better patient treatment.

Nurses are inherently innovators. Nurses interact with all stakeholders in the hospital setting from emergency room to inpatient, as well as outside agencies such as insurance companies and community public healthcare. This broad interaction aids in improving patient outcomes and reducing the cost of healthcare.

NN: What inspired you to address this patient health issue?

Angela: My core belief and value as an African American played a significant role. Often, responses to mental health issues don’t take into account the cultural aspects of the patient behavior. Behaviors relating to fear, anxiety or agitation are most of the time misinterpreted from a cultural perspective within healthcare settings. PERT was an opportunity not only to assist with crisis situations on these units, but also to teach others on cultural differences that can affect our communication and understanding of patients from different cultures. Transcultural nursing care can help improve treatment plans, as well as reduce relapses and readmission.

NN: What is the most exciting milestone you’ve witnessed in mental health nursing over the past few years?

Angela: The most exciting milestone I have witnessed in mental health nursing over the past few years is the continued acceptance of mentally ill patients and the growing popularity and success of anti-stigma campaigns. These types of initiatives help encourage individuals to seek mental healthcare sooner and discuss their mental health symptoms.

NN: Who are your nursing role models?

Angela: I would have loved to have my late mom and uncle present as I’ve advanced in my nursing career. They were also in the healthcare field, and I have great admiration for both of them. My mother was a surgical nurse in the 1960s and my uncle was a medical doctor in the 1980s. Both passed away – from breast cancer and colon cancer respectively. My mom taught me the fundamental skills of professional life as a nurse, such as patience, listening, communication skills, time management, compassion and discipline. Our family emigrated from Sierra Leone, and my Mom always reminded me that failure is not an option. She would say to “never forget that the Americans went to the moon, therefore the sky should not be my limit.”

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