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Media Release

May 4 2007

UniSA’s mental health mentors give SA nurses the edge

UniSA introduces program to mentor mental health nursesUniSA will lead a new State Government funded program to better equip more nurses to become mental health nursing specialists.

The $90,000 program will offer mentoring to mental health nurse practitioner candidates over a period of 18 months.

The first of its kind in Australia, the program is funded by the Department of Health and will support nine new nurse practitioner candidates to develop a clinical practice portfolio leading to authorisation as nurse practitioners with the Nurses Board of South Australia.

UniSA specialist in mental health nursing, Associate Professor Nicholas Procter says the demand for experienced mental health nurses is high.

“About 50 per cent of people with a mental illness are not identified by their health professional as having a psychological problem,” he says. “We also know that less than 40 per cent of people with mental illness receive any mental health care in a 12-month period.

“Nurses have an important clinical and public health role across the health care system, and properly trained and experienced, they can play an invaluable role in identifying mental health problems and providing care and treatment for individuals.

“They work across a whole range of health settings including accident and emergency departments, community based crisis intervention teams and in child and youth health centres.

“Advanced training and mentorship through a program such as this one will give nurses the capacity to provide leadership in a range of care and treatment settings. With about 75 per cent of all adult mental health problems commencing before the age of 25, it is especially important that we have advanced mental health professionals available to assess and plan care for people early.”

Under the program UniSA mentors provide clinical leadership development, coaching and academic development to help each nurse practitioner to build the personal and professional capacity required to meet the needs of people with mental illness.

Prof Procter says particular care will be taken to support each nurse in the combined roles of clinical care provider, educator, mentor, manager and researcher within the practice setting.

“An important feature of the mentorship program is that each participant will complete a portfolio to articulate how they define, undertake and evaluate their clinical practice specific to the needs of South Australians with a mental illness,” he says

“This vital planning assessment skill ensures that these nurses will have the skills to provide best practice in the field and to continue to improve care services as needs change.”

Further information about the mentorship program is available from the principal mentor Associate Professor Nicholas Procter.
 


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