Published on May 11th, 2017 | from CAMH

Nurses of CAMH

A Humans of New York-inspired piece about CAMH’s compassionate team of nurses
By Mike Hajmasy

In many respects, nurses are the backbone of the Canadian health care system. Whether it’s in their direct clinical care, advanced practice, management, education or research, nurses are the go-to source for informed and compassionate care.

In honour of National Nursing Week, meet eight CAMH nurses from across the organization and read first-hand how they’re making a difference, and what inspires them to do the work that they do.

To the more than 750 nurses at CAMH and thousands more across the country: thank you!

Each of these posts is featured individually on CAMH’s official Instagram account, which you can follow @CAMHnews.

Paul, Registered Nurse, Addiction Medicine Service

“I always imagine myself sitting in the seat you’re sitting in right now; I give the same love and support that I’d want to receive if the tables were turned. This is a voluntary addictions outpatient clinic, so the people who come here come of their own accord, and it’s our job to meet them where they’re at in terms of support. We’re focused on harm reduction – it’s not about telling people what to do.

Nursing is a pretty selfless profession, but I definitely feel a sense of reward from helping people get back what they might have lost because of an addiction. Maybe their overall health has improved – they’ve lost or gained weight, their faces have cleared up – or they’ve gotten their job back, made amends with a friend or partner. It feels good to know they’re in a better place than they were when they first sat in that seat.”

Gillian, Registered Nurse and Project Scientist for Informatics

“I work in a less conventional nursing role conducting research that focuses on understanding, developing and testing interventions to improve patient and health professional adoption of innovative digital and mobile health technologies. Currently, there is a significant knowledge gap in how to empower patients and health professionals to use these technologies in meaningful ways within mental health and addictions settings. My research seeks to address this gap, and ultimately, to improve patient-centered care.

Mobile apps and information technologies for mental health are still in their early stages of development and there is much to be gained from these in the way of improving both access to and quality of care. It’s an area where I feel like I’m able to combine my previous experience as a frontline nurse with my passion for using research and information to drive change and have a meaningful impact.”

Younten, Registered Nurse, Geriatric Admission Unit A

“Openness to learning is especially important in mental health nursing. Patients are complex, and the combination of mental and physical illness in some of the older patients I work with can be a challenge. But, I’m curious by nature and love that this work forces me to continually learn about how to provide the best care possible, and about people.

With every patient there is an opportunity to connect with another human being; to look beyond their illness and to learn something about who they are. By listening to their experiences, remaining open and putting their needs first, I can determine the best approach to take with a patient. Every day is a little bit different, but the reward is the same.”

Satinder, Nurse Educator, Professional Practice Office

“Second to my passion for mental health nursing is my passion for teaching. I’ve always been driven towards improving processes, policies and procedures, and in my newer role as a nurse educator, I get to combine my passions by supporting our interprofessional teams in terms of education and training, and participate in unit-specific and hospital-wide quality improvement initiatives. I work alongside frontline staff identifying learning needs and coordinating any necessary training to ensure our practice is informed by the most up-to-date standards of care and discipline-specific guidelines – the ultimate goal of this being improved outcomes for our patients.

I really feel like I was born to be a mental health nurse. I’ve always wanted to inspire and empower people. To meet people and have an impact on their life is so rewarding, and although I miss being a frontline nurse at times, I feel like now I’m able to have the same impact in a different way.”

Jimmy, Registered Nurse, Structured Observation & Treatment Unit/Women’s Secure Forensic Unit

“’You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing.’ This is what I tell everyone that I work with. I’ve worked on many different units with different patient populations, and the one thing I know for sure is that everyone has a story; people are more than their illness.

My mom has battled with depression for a long time, and I think growing up seeing the impact it had on her and other members of my family is what inspired me to become a mental health nurse. I treat the patients I work with the same way I would treat her because at the end of the day, I want them to feel motivated by the care I provide them. A patient once gave me a note that said ‘thank you for not giving up on me,’ and that was enough for me to know I’m doing something right – I’m making a difference.”

Bridget, Registered Nurse and Manager, Downtown West [Archway] Outpatient Clinic

“No matter how unwell a patient might present, I know that there is some strength there; every person has worth. In the outpatient setting, I encourage my team to practice a collaborative recovery model of care. We partner with patients on their recovery journey, focusing on their strengths to achieve optimal wellness. Our nurses play a much bigger role than administering medication; they are case managers for their patients, helping them navigate the system and connecting them to community resources.

Before I became a registered nurse I worked in banking. When I tell people that, they wonder why I made the switch; they don’t see how the two relate. But for me, it’s always been about caring for people, helping them succeed. In banking it’s about good customer service – in nursing it’s about patient-centered care.”

Angie, Advanced Practice Clinical Leader (Nursing), Complex Care and Recovery

“Nursing really is both an art and a science. On one hand, you’re pulling from research, evidence, best practices and internal policies – the science – to inform care. On the other, the nurse pulls on the artistic skills driven by science theory to find creative innovative ways to implement this in practice – the art.

In my role I work with teams from a practice perspective to advance the clinical care we provide our patients. My colleagues and I continually learn with and from each other on how best to build therapeutic relationships with our patients; how to tailor care to meet their needs. To do this, and to see positive outcomes for a patient as a result, that’s really the part of this work that I love most.”

Tsega, Registered Nurse, Acute Care Unit B

“Mental health is one of the more stigmatized and neglected areas of health care. And in my role on an acute care unit, I work with some particularly marginalized populations: people with a diagnosis of psychosis, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, often in combination with substance abuse or a personality disorder. This unit is one of the first places our patients come after visiting the Emergency Department. They’re very ill, are experiencing one of the most challenging times of their life and aren’t always trusting at first.

So to work as a mental health nurse – to build trust, foster a therapeutic relationship and advocate on behalf of people who have been neglected in so many ways – that, to me, is what this job is all about.”

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