Practice Nurses Educational Needs in Mental Health: a Descriptive Exploratory Survey
Background-Large numbers of patients see practice nurses (PNs) daily for their health care. Many of these patients will have a mental illness or a mental health (MH) need. International research suggests that the practice nurses are undertaking mental health assessment and interventions without the requisite skills and knowledge. This thesis reports on a study designed to quantify PNs work in mental health, to determine their education requirements and establish their confidence in the field of mental health. Methods-A postal survey was used to examine the nature of MH problems encountered by PNs, describe the MH interventions currently being used by them and identify the perceived learning needs of PNs in MH. Practice nurses in Hawkes Bay and Tairawhiti regions were surveyed. The questionnaire consisted of 33 open, closed and likert questions. Analysis was by descriptive, correlation and inferential statistics plus content analysis for open questions. Findings-52 respondents completed the questionnaire and the results demonstrate that these PNs are caring for patients with an extensive range of mental health concerns daily. Most common are people with depression and anxiety. The nurses perform a wide range of MH interventions such as counselling and advice on medication and have minimal confidence in their skill level. The nurses expressed learning needs included recognition and management of a wide range of mental health conditions such as suicidal ideation and all types of depression, reflecting the range of conditions met. Other learning requirements included understanding of co-morbidity and how to screen for mental health. The preferred provider of education was community mental health services by means of a short course specifically designed to meet their needs. Discussion-Practice nurses require education and support specifically designed to meet their identified needs in mental health to help then improve the care to patients. This will require collaboration between secondary mental health services, primary mental health nurses and tertiary institutions. With targeted education these nurses should become more confident and competent in their dealings with people who present to their practice with a mental health concern.