Tag Archives: consultation liaison

A Conversation about Documentation in Consultation Liaison

De-identified info from the ACMHN Consultation Liaison Nurse Network www.acmhn.org/home-clsig

PPT slide from the report given at the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Consultation Liaison Special Interest Group Annual General Meeting on 5th June 2008.

Question from regional Queensland 06/02/18

My team serves two digital masters: CIMHA (the mental health only file/application) and ieMR (the electronic general hospital file/application).

Our flesh + blood masters have now suggested that we should stop documenting in ieMR.

I think that’s dangerous.

However, I  want to see if there’s any CL service(s) that does NOT document in the hospital file.

If so, how does it work? Do you spend a lot of time in coroner’s court?

Response from Melbourne 06/02/18

I can’t imagine not documenting in hospital/clinical file – what part of consultation are they missing?

Sorry – this is a redundant reply to your question but can’t not respond.

Response from Melbourne 06/02/18

I agree it is dangerous and wrong. If we don’t write in the hospital file, how do our referees know what we advise, how else do we educate them? The nurses would often tell me that they loved reading my notes as it helped them make sense of what was going on. Definitely fight it. Do the other consult teams to the hospital have a separate file? I doubt it.

Response from regional Northern Territory 06/02/18

The other justification is documenting a diagnosis for clinical coding, which may or may not be relevant to activity based funding depending on where you are working.

The issue we have found in the NT with printing notes from an electronic system and placing them in the paper file, is the mental health notes often go missing, are filed incorrectly or do not even make it to medical records after discharge, meaning our input, suggestions and recommendations don’t make it into discharge summaries or correspondence for future presentations. Hence why we also handwrite in the file.

Response from Perth 06/02/18

I agree with you – I think it is dangerous to say the least.

We currently primarily document in the general hospital file (as these patients are admitted under general medical teams) as the teams who refer to us are asking for advice, suggestions or assistance with these patients.  We do not admit these patients to MH and have no beds.  If we assess that the patient requires a MH admission only then do we refer and  complete the required MH documents (which would go with the patient to MH).  We are however, required to enter our patient contacts in to the statewide MH database in order to generate statistics for our service.

Response from regional New South Wales 06/02/18

I am lucky as we do not use the local MH electronic documentation system. Our patient files are still paper based. I would be concerned about the medicolegal aspects of not having your notes available to the general hospital staff.

Response from Adelaide 06/02/18

We use both systems (MH Community AND hospital EPAS).

Hospital is where we work; therefore MH record gets ‘cut and pastes’ for ongoing CMHT requirements (if at all)

Response from Brisbane 06/02/18

Given our clients/customers are the treating medical/surgical team it’s imperative we write all our notes within the clinical chart. At this hospital all clinical notes are uploaded into iEMR once the patient is discharged; this means our notes can be accessible by anyone with access to this system. As yet we don’t directly input notes into iEMR but I think over the years this will change.

Because our notes are also useful to MHS we either write directly into CIMHA, print off the note and put it in the clinical chart or print off the note we’ve written in the clinical chart and then upload this into CIMHA.

If a patient is clearly delirious with no mental health history we don’t usually upload anything into CIMHA, we just write in the clinical chart.

It’s helpful for the referring teams to be able to ALL aspects of a patient’s care during in-patient stays, including MH input as when the patient is next admitted it gives them a more holistic view of the patient and encourages them to think more about how their MH problems may impact on their admission.

Response from Brisbane 06/02/18

I write in the hospital chart Progress Notes and then scan and upload to CIMHA the electronic MH record.  The reason I do this is because CIMHA printouts get filed under correspondence and not chronologically in the Progress Notes of the patient chart.  I often have the debate with MH clinicians who see a patient in ED or a general ward on the weekend, come back and write an excellent entry on CIMHA but the receiving medical team has absolutely no idea that the patient has been seen, what the outcome was nor any plan for ongoing review.

My concerns are:

how are any risk issues handed over to the medical areas? If an adverse event like a suicide/attempt happened would the coroner think notes on a database not accessible from the current treatment are or team or the current record be seen as satisfactory?

the medical team who owns the patients care within the care structure and has asked for the MH input gets no report, feedback nor result from their request,

how do any recommendation get carried over?

I would also ask how MH would feel if cardiology came to review someone in the MH unit and returned to cardiology, noted their review on a bespoke cardiac notation system and not the record within MH and left it at that, if that would be seen as satisfactory practice and care.

I suspect the scope to debate this would be well achieved through the accreditation standards, documentation and/or handover, would this pass the accreditors?

Response from regional New South Wales 07/02/18

I agree with the observation made regarding fact that the treating team caring for the person must be aware of all essential clinical details and interactions that all clinical services are providing to the person.

For services that maintain separate mental health and medical records it is essential that the clinicians responsible for that episode of care (i.e. the inpatient staff) have ready access to the clinical record in the location they would be presumed to be consulting. I would strongly suggest this means mental health consultation notes should be entered into the ward medical record and a copy be provided to add to the mental health record.

I have been aware of MH clinicians and managers occasionally expressing anxiety about non-specialist health staff accessing mental health documentation for fear that clinicians will inappropriately access and use such information. All health employees in Australia are bound by a code of conduct which strictly prohibits the inappropriate access to and use of privileged information from a clinical record – the consequences of breaching this element of the code of conduct can be quite serious. One of the benefits we have in our health service in NSW is that the majority of our services are now recording in common electronic files (EMR), meaning the issue of which file to record a clinical intervention in is not an issue, and any time a clinician accesses those records a digital finger print is left on the file. This means any time a clinician accesses a file without just cause there is evidence that a breach of confidentiality has occurred.

Response from regional New South Wales 07/02/18

It is interesting this discussion has arisen now as it has been the hot potato topic of our area and specifically my role in recent months.

Prior to the review I had been documenting in the clinical file AND our electronic community record CHIME, double dipping if you please, and very time consuming.

It is now the case that I write in the clinical notes, but I will also in addition complete a form based comprehensive mental health assessment for those patients who are being referred to the MHS. That form is scanned and emailed to an email address specifically set up for each CMHT, it is then added to the electronic file, the original assessment form remains with the patients hospital file as correspondence.

Response from regional Queensland 07/02/18

CLP writes notes in CIMHA and places them in the medical record in the relevant admission or community section of the medical note. This seems to flow smoothly here and has the advantage that if the consumer is discharged to a rural area the CLP notes are available to general hospital staff in the viewer. We use the CLP templates  which are in CIMHA.

The community mental health teams no longer write notes in medical records. Their notes are all recorded in CIMHA and no hard copy is placed on the medical record.

Response from Melbourne 07/02/18

We used to have two separate files but now have EMR and record directly on to the medical file under mental health (there is a function to put it “behind the glass”) so you can record more sensitive information if necessary. Someone has to “break the glass to look at it”.  We’ve had this system now for about 18 months and it has cut down our paper work enormously.

Anyone we refer within our region to the community can be accessed through their own service on EMR and we link our referral to the UR of the patient.

If they are referred to another service (outside our region) we print out and fax our assessment to them from EMR.  Everyone we see is recorded on CMI (demographics, clinician, contacts, diagnosis, advance statement etc but we don’t record assessments or impressions there.)

So just for those in Victoria, so you know, once they hit the adult system you will be able to see their registration date etc and can always make contact for more info.

Response from Sydney-based, covers many NSW Local Health Districts (LHDs) 07/02/18

This thread is particularly useful, thank you!

The clients/patients we see via telehealth, have an open encounter/MRN/electronic Medical Record (eMR) – including community/inpatient – in the referring/responsible LHD, and we need to create a new encounter/MRN/eMR in my LHD. I then extract notes from eMR, create a letter of feedback (impression and recommendations) which I email same day, with request that the MH Clinician at the other end upload the feedback into their local eMR, then to maintain privacy, delete the email and attachment from their inbox and deleted folders.

Uploaded files/feedback appear in ‘correspondence’ which as pointed out in this thread, need to be hunted for. Getting the feedback into the eMR also relies on the receiving Clinician to access their email and process it.

Many of the women we see are at high risk of relapse or first episode psychosis around the time of childbirth so Maternity Services would benefit from seeing our notes.

I have taken initial steps toward a pilot project whereby we may be able to write directly in the eMR in the other, usually rural LHD.

Response from Melbourne 07/02/18

We document in the hospital paper file in the episode of care.

Simple.

It works for us but we are getting an electronic medical record “soon”

Response from Sydney 09/02/18

Our system here is all eMR and went this way last year with MH going this way before the major hospital. So anyone can see anything from D&A, MH, general inpatient and community services. There are just a couple systems that work differently (oncology – which includes our psych oncology outpatient) and maternity.

It has made life so much easier to be able to see recent interactions and it has also stopped the need to fax assessments etc as it can be seen.

Like others, if it is an individual who is from outside our area health, we fax it and give verbal handover.

Prior to this, we only ever wrote in the medical file as they are the services that we work with. We use to fax to same AHS but no longer do this 🙂

I would be very worried for all the reasons that others have stated in relation to medico-legal issues as well.

Response from regional Queensland 09/02/18

Thanks to everyone for your generous and thoughtful responses.

I had been given the impression that there was something peculiar about my stubbornness on the matter. The reassurance and wisdom of the CL Nurse community is very much appreciated.

Attached is a deidentified version of our conversation about documentation in consultation liaison.

The title will make for a good rap refrain.

I’ve left-out names of people and hospitals/districts, and the side-conversation re timeliness (no offence meant; hopefully none taken).

I didn’t ask the question to gather data for a conference presentation, but I might use the attached for something more academic than a funky rap refrain.

If you’d rather your info be excluded please contact me directly (off-list).

The Mental Health Consultation Liaison Nurse Network started-off in 2002 as a Yahoo email list. More info: http://www.acmhn.org/index.php/home-clsig

End

Many thanks to all those who participated in the email discussion. I’m reminded of our old flyer for the email network which was headed by this catchphrase:

Consultation Liaison Nurses.
Isolated Geographically. Connected Electronically.

I’m leaving the transcript of the conversation here for three reasons:

  1. There may be others who battling the same/similar issues. This page is googleable, so may be of assistance.
  2. The conversation isn’t about nuclear missile launch codes. There’s no need to keep it secret or hidden away from the world.
  3. I, and others who are interested, will be able to find the conversations (ie: qualitative data) quickly and easily PRN.

To find out more about the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Consultation Liaison Special Interest Group and/or the email network, go to: www.acmhn.org/index.php/home-clsig

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome in the space below.

Paul McNamara, 20th February 2018

Short URL: meta4RN.com/documentation

Social Media and Digital Citizenship: A CL Nurse’s Perspective

This post is a companion piece to my keynote presentation at the 5th Annual Queensland Consultation Liaison Psychiatry Symposium “Modern Approaches in CL Psychiatry”, on 2nd November 2017,

The function of this page is to be a collection point to list references/links that will be mentioned in the presentation. The Prezi is intended as an oral presentation, so I do not intend to include a full description of the content here.

Click on the picture to see the Prezi

Bio/Intro (you know speakers write these themselves, right?)

Paul McNamara is a CL CNC in Cairns.

Paul has been dabbling in health care social media since 2010. He established an online portfolio in 2012 which includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and a Blog.

In 2016 Paul was appointed to the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing specifically because of his interest in social media.

This morning’s presentation “Social Media & Digital Citizenship: A CL Nurse’s Perspective” aims to encourage the converts, enthuse the curious, and empower the cautious.

Disclaimer/Apology/Excuse

Regular visitors to meta4RN.com will recognise some familiar themes.

Let’s not call it self-plagiarism (such an ugly term), I would rather think of it as a new, funky remix of a favourite old song.

Due to this remixing of old content I’ve included lots of previous meta4RN.com blog posts on the reference list.

This, in turn, makes the reference list look stupidly self-referential. #TrumpBrag

 

Anyway, with that embarrassing disclosure out of the way, here is the list of references and links cited in the Prezi prezi.com/user/meta4RN

References + Links

Altmetric Attention Score [example] https://wiley.altmetric.com/details/23964454

Australian College of Nursing (n.d.) Social media guidelines for nurses. Retreived from http://www.rcna.org.au/WCM/…for_nurses.pdf

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. (2014, March 17). Social media policy. Retrieved from http://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/2014-02-13-revised-guidelines-code-and-policy.aspx

Casella, E., Mills, J., & Usher, K. (2014). Social media and nursing practice: Changing the balance between the social and technical aspects of work. Collegian, 21(2), 121–126. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2014.03.005

Facebook. (2015). Facebook logo. Retrieved from https://www.facebookbrand.com/

Ferguson, C., Inglis, S. C., Newton, P. J., Cripps, P. J. S., Macdonald, P. S., & Davidson, P. M. (2014).  Social media: A tool to spread information: A case study analysis of Twitter conversation at the Cardiac Society of Australia & New Zealand 61st Annual Scientific Meeting 2013. Collegian, 21(2), 89–93. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2014.03.002

Fox, C.S., Bonaca, M.P., Ryan, J.J., Massaro, J.M., Barry, K. & Loscalzo, J. (2015). A randomized trial of social media from Circulation. Circulation. 131(1), pp 28-33

Gallagher, R., Psaroulis, T., Ferguson, C., Neubeck, L. & Gallagher, P. 2016, ‘Social media practices on Twitter: maximising the impact of cardiac associations’, British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, vol. 11, no. 10, pp. 481-487.

Instagram. (2015). Instagram logo. Retrieved from https://help.instagram.com/304689166306603

Li, C. (2015). Charlene Li photo. Retrieved from http://www.charleneli.com/about-charlene/reviewer-resources/

lifeinthefastlane. (2013). #FOAMed logo. Retrieved from http://lifeinthefastlane.com/foam/

My Tweets = my lecture notes. Other people’s Tweets also = my lecture notes. 🙂

McNamara, P. (2017, October 16) Delirium risks and prevention. Tweets re the guest lecture by Prof Sharon Inouye at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (and Cairns via videolink) collated on Storify. Retrieved from https://storify.com/meta4RN/delirium-risks-and-prevention

McNamara, P. (2016, November 18) Twitter is a Vector (my #ACIPC16 presentation). Retrieved from https://meta4RN.com/ACIPC16

McNamara, P. (2016, October 21) Why on earth would a Mental Health Nurse bother with Twitter? (my #ACMHN2016 presentation). Retrieved from https://meta4RN.com/ACMHN2016

McNamara, P. (2016, October 15) Learn about Obesity (and Twitter) via Nurses Tweeting at a Conference. Retrieved from  https://meta4RN.com/obesity

McNamara, P., & Meijome, X. M. (2015). Twitter Para Enfermeras (Spanish/Español). Retrieved 11 March 2015, from http://www.ausmed.com.au/es/twitter-para-enfermeras/

McNamara, P. (2014). A Nurse’s Guide to Twitter. Retrieved from http://www.ausmed.com.au/twitter-for-nurses/

McNamara, P. (2014, May 3) Luddites I have known. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/luddites

McNamara, P. (2013) Behave online as you would in real life (letter to the editor), TQN: The Queensland Nurse, June 2013, Volume 32, Number 3, Page 4.

McNamara, P. (2013, October 25) Professional use of Twitter and healthcare social media. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/NPD100

McNamara, P. (2013, October 23) A Twitter workshop in tweets. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/tweets

McNamara, P. (2013, October 1) Professional use of Twitter. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/poster

McNamara, P. (2013, July 21) Follow Friday and other twitterisms. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/FF

McNamara, P. (2013, June 29) Thinking health communication? Think mobile. Retrieved https://meta4RN.com/mobile

McNamara, P. (2013, June 7) Omnipresent and always available: A mental health nurse on Twitter. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/twit

McNamara, P. (2013, January 20) Social media for nurses: my ten-step, slightly ranty, version. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/rant1

Moorley, C., & Chinn, T. (2014). Using social media for continuous professional development. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(4), 713–717. doi:10.1111/jan.12504

Nickson, C. P., & Cadogan, M. D. (2014). Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 26(1), 76–83. doi:10.1111/1742-6723.12191

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (2010, September 9) Information sheet on social media. Retrieved from http://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/documents/default.aspx?record=WD10%2F3224&dbid=AP&chksum=qhog9%2FUCgKdssFmA0XnBlA%3D%3D

Office of the eSafety Commisioner (2017). eSafety logo. Retrieved from https://www.esafety.gov.au

Read, J., Harper, D., Tucker, I. and Kennedy, A. (2017), Do adult mental health services identify child abuse and neglect? A systematic review. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/inm.12369/abstract

Screenshot 1 “Trump: Twitter helped me win but I’ll be ‘restrained’ now” from http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/12/media/donald-trump-twitter-60-minutes/

Screenshot 2: “Melania Trump rebukes her husband “all the time” for Twitter use” from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-melania-trump-60-minutes-interview-rebukes-twitter-use/

The Nurse Path (facebook) https://www.facebook.com/theNursePath

Tonia, T., Van Oyen, H., Berger, A., Schindler, C. & Künzli, N. (2016). International Journal of Public Health. 61(4), pp 513-520. doi:10.1007/s00038-016-0831-y

Twitter. (2015). Twitter logo. Retrieved from https://about.twitter.com/press/brand-assets

Wilson, R., Ranse, J., Cashin, A., & McNamara, P. (2014). Nurses and Twitter: The good, the bad, and the reluctant. Collegian, 21(2), 111–119. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2013.09.003
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1322769613000905

Wozniak, H., Uys, P., & Mahoney, M. J. (2012). Digital communication in a networked world. In J. Higgs, R. Ajjawi, L. McAllister, F. Trede, & S. Loftus (Eds.), Communication in the health sciences (3rd ed., pp. 150–162). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press

End 

Finally, a big thank you to the organisers of the 5th Annual Consultation Liaison Psychiatry Symposium, especially Stacey Deaville for suggesting this session, and Dr Paul Pun for pulling on all the right strings.

That’s it. As always your comments are welcome.

Paul McNamara, 19th October 2017

Short URL: meta4RN.com/CLPS

Mental State Examination: Looking, Listening and Asking

Mental State Examination: Looking, Listening and Asking
By Paul McNamara @meta4RN
RGN (RAH), RPN (SAMHS), BN (Flin.), MMHN (USQ), Cert IMH (WCHN), CMHN, FACMHN
Adapted from the original work of Jenni Bryant @JenCLNinja
RN, RPN (NPC) RGN (BDH), MRN(MH), BN(UNE), MN (Research) (UoN), FACMHN

Every Australian undergraduate nurse is introduced to mental health and undertaking mental state examinations/assessments. However, only about one in every twenty nurses will specialise in working in mental health. For the majority of nurses (ie: those not working in mental health) undertaking a mental state assessment can often become a forgotten skill. This, in turn, deskills the nurse and disadvantages the patient – it’s not holistic care if mental health isn’t considered along with the medical/surgical/maternal aspects of care. As the adage says: there is no health without mental health.

If you’re not accustomed to incorporating mental state examinations (MSE) into your everyday role, it can feel a bit intimidating. Nurses I’ve worked with sometimes feel that they’re not adequately equipped to assess someone’s mental state. Of course they are – as long as they have a bit of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation), and break down mental state examination to the three core skills that Jenni Bryant identified in her original powerpoint presentation: looking, listening and asking (adapted, online version available via www.slideshare.net/paulmcnamara).

This online version is in response to a few people requesting to have a print-friendly version (here: MSE), and/or something they’ll always have “in their pocket”, via internet-connected smartphones. The meta4RN.com website readily acknowledges that .edu and .gov websites have more credibility. However, many of those websites are not device-agnostic, so don’t render as well as meta4RN.com does on smartphones and tablets.

It’s a good habit to document a brief MSE for all your patients, not just those with a diagnosed mental illness. Mental state can and does change over a shift, day or week – it’s important to notice and communicate changes.

A comprehensive mental state assessment will include a full history: medical history, psychiatric history, medication history and personal history (developmental, relationship, education, employment, social). As history is static, there is no need to make this part of your “everyday” regular MSE.

A MSE is a snapshot as the person as they are at the time. A well-documented MSE conveys this impression for the reader. Using non-judgemental language, direct quotes of what the person says, and finding the right descriptors/adjectives makes for good MSE documentation. No need to worry about sentence construction. Dot points are fine.

Hopefully the following info will assist.

Mental Sate Examination (Looking, Listening and Asking)

General Description (Looking)

Level of Consciousness
drowsy, alert, sleeping, fluctuating

Appearance
grooming, makeup, posture, clothing, obvious physical deformities or characteristics

Behaviour
eye contact, rapport, level of activity (do you see psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation? if so, describe it), body language, mannerisms, specific activities

Speech (Listening)

Flow
smooth, hesitant, interrupted, staccato
easy to interrupt/redirect?
are responses prompt or delayed?

Rate
fast (pressured), slow, or unremarkable?

Volume
soft, loud/pressured, unremarkable.

Tone
flat, monotonous, restricted range, expressive

Continuity
the capacity to maintain a normal progression from one stream of thought to the next: over-inclusive, poverty, circumstantial, perservation or blocking?

Form
assess for abnormalities of form of speech, not form of thought eg stammer/stutter, dysarthia, expressive or receptive aphasia.

Clarity

Accent

Affect (Looking)

An objective assessment of facial and bodily expression of mood state.
Is affect appropriate to content? (congruent)
Assess the range, appropriateness, intensity and quality of affect
Rapid shift from one emotive response to another? (lability)

Some Useful Adjectives:

sad, tearful, angry, irritable, elated, euphoric, frightened, despondent, animated, expansive, cooperative, ingratiating, distressed, discouraged, anxious, hostile, guarded, anxious, calm, ambivalent, dysphoric, euthymic, suspicious, fatuous, bewildered, perplexed

Mood (Asking)

A subjective assessment of mood state:
How has your mood been lately?
How do you feel within yourself?
What has given you happiness, joy or enjoyment recently?
Are you a good person?
Have you been feeling guilty or sad?
If 10 is as good as you ever feel and 0 is as low as you go, where on the scale have you been over the last couple of weeks?

Neurovegetative signs and symptoms:
Sleep
Appetite
Irritability
Tearfulness
Energy
Motivation
Libido
Withdrawal

Thoughts (Asking & Listening)

Form
coherent? rational? sequential/linear?
amount – poverty, flight of ideas, vague
continuity of ideas – incoherent, blocking, circumstantial, tangential, irrelevant
disturbance in meaning or use of language – neologisms, word salad

Content
delusions, obsessions, compulsions, suicidal ideation, phobias, paranoia, preoccupations?
Do you feel safe here/at home?
Are you able to project your thoughts onto others?
Are other people able to insert ideas/thoughts into your head?

Perception (Looking, Listening & Asking)

Hallucinations = false sensory perception that occurs in the absence of a stimulus.
Can affect any of the senses:
Auditory
Visual
Olfactory
Tactile
Gustatory
Have you been experiencing any unusual sensations that you can’t easily explain?
Do you any special powers?
Sometimes when people are really stressed they hear voices/noises, but there’s nobody there. Has that ever happened to you?
You seem distracted by something I can’t see. Can you help me understand what you’re experiencing?

Ideas/delusions of reference
Do you have any unusual experiences when watching TV, or listening to music?
Do you ever feel that the TV has special messages just for you?

Illusion = misinterpretation of sensory stimulus
eg: responding to a pyjama top on a chair as if it were a cat; being startled by something out the corner of their eye.

Cognition (Asking & Listening)

Orientation
time, place, person, situation
Memory
Concentration
Attention
Clock Drawing Test [brief frontal lobe assessment]
please draw a large circle, then insert numbers to make it look like a clock.
now draw in the hands to show ten past eleven

MMSE: Mini Mental State Examination
– screening [ie: not diagnostic] tool for cognitive impairment – best for mild to moderate
– does not differentiate between delirium and dementia
– used to detect impairment, to follow course of illness, to monitor treatment response
– affected by education, intelligence, age, literacy, culture and inter-rater reliability

MMSE alternatives include:

MoCA: Montreal Cognitive Assessment
ACE-R: Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination
RUDAS: Rowland Universal Dementia Assessment Scale
KICA: Kimberley Indigenous Cognitive Assessment

Insight & Judgement (Asking & Listening)
Insight = to see one’s self as others do
Judgement = capacity to make reasoned decisions

Does the person recognise symptoms (eg: confusion, hallucinations) as symptoms?
Is the person aware that they are ill and understand the effects and implications?
Is the person seeking assistance/information or rejecting help?
Good, partial or poor? As evidenced by…

Risk (Asking & Listening)

Estimation of risk will be influenced by the person’s history (ie: previous experiences, behaviours and exposures) – the static factors.

Risk is best explored after rapport has been established, and the person knows that you are a safe, non-judgemental person. If somebody discloses intent/plans of harming themselves or others, thank them for trusting you, and let them know that it is too important a matter for just the two of you to handle alone. You’ll arrange for support.

The suggested questions below are for dynamic, “here and now”, factors only

Risk to Self
Do you still have “the fighting spirit”?
Do you ever think, “what’s the point in going on?”
What’s keeping you going?, what makes life worth living?
Have you thought you would be better off dead? How strong are these thoughts?
Have you thought of suicide?
Have you made a plan? [if “yes”, does the person have access to means?]
When would you do this?
What can I do to help you to stay safe?

Risk to Others
You seem pretty angry.
Are you able to express that anger safely?
Do you feel like acting on that anger?
Do you feel like hurting someone?
Are you safe to be around at the moment?
Am I safe with you? What about the other staff and patients here?
What can I do to help you to stay safe?

Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs (Asking & Listening) 

Most substance abuse is contextual
Give “permission” for honest answers

“Sounds like you’ve had a lot of stress lately. How have you been coping?”
“You’ve got a lot of stuff going on at the moment… are you drinking or smoking more than usual?”
“In FNQ plenty of people use the bottle shop or a bit of choof or speed to try to manage stress. How about you?”

Quantity. Frequency. Recency. Route.

Substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Cannabis (choof, gunja, yarndi, weed, dope)
  • Amphetamines (speed, goey)
  • Methamphetamines (ice, crystal meth)
  • MDMA = methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy)
  • Opioids (codeine, morphine, methadone, heroin)
  • Benzodiazepines (benzos: diazepam, oxazepam, nitrazepam/moggies, temazepam/normies, alprazolam/xannies)
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, magic mushrooms)

End

That’s it. Hopefully you’ll find it as a handy memory-prompt/word-finder/confidence booster when providing holistic patient care.

There is a printer-friendly version here:
pdficon

There is a slideshow version here:
MSE

The short URL for this page is: meta4RN.com/MSE

As always, your feedback is welcomed in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 22nd July 2016

Defending Mental Health in Nursing Education

NHS

The Guardian (UK ed), 29 Sep 2014

There was an article in The Guardian (UK edition) recently where a nurse described how ill-equipped they felt to support patients experiencing mental health difficulties. The article included the startling information that, “My nursing course, which I think was excellent, contained no more than three days structured education on caring for patients with mental health problems.”

Umm. That wasn’t an excellent nursing course. That’s a crap nursing course.

Look, us Aussies like to tease the Brits about their weather and cricket team every chance we get, but I’m not accustomed to criticising their nursing courses. The truth is, I do not know enough about nursing courses in the UK to hold any strong opinions about how good or bad they are.

That said, I wonder what the general public would think of hospitals being staffed by nurses who had undertaken, as reported, a three year nursing course that includes only three days of teaching in mental health. I am glad that doesn’t happen in Australia.

Dumbing Down is Dumb

Since July 2000 most of my work has been about supporting mental health care in the general health settings as Consultation Liaison CNC (more about that here) and as Perinatal Mental Health CNC (more about that here). These roles have direct clinical input, but also have a lot to do with supporting general nurses and midwives to feel more confident and become more skilled at providing direct clinical care to people experiencing mental health difficulties. It’s inevitable that they’ll need these skills – a significant proportion of people who access general hospitals and/or maternity services also experience symptoms of depression, anxiety etc. Dumbing-down mental health education for general nurses and midwives is dumb.

elistIn August 2012 a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor proposed using MHFA as inservice education for hospital-based nurses. I mounted my high horse to defend the depth and quality of nursing education sprouting the opinion that MHFA is not suitable training for RNs. My rant went along the lines of it’s great training for many community and professional groups, but it’s inadequate for those working in health role. Undergraduate nursing programs have more than the 12 contact hours that MHFA offers, and we should re-awaken/build-on that education. Nurses in particular need to know a bit about:

  • symptom detection
  • meanings/implications of diagnostic groups
  • medication effects and side-effects
  • the biopsychosocial model of mental health
  • social determinants of health
  • risk assessment/management
  • emotional intelligence and therapeutic use of self

confpresTo give MHFA their due, they have never claimed their training to be an alternative to formal nursing education (others have). MHFA does a good job at informing first responders, but does not address mental health in a manner suitable for a frontline clinician. There is a community expectation that nurses and midwives will have a depth of understanding of mental health beyond that of the general community, beyond basic fist aid.

This conversation started off as a discussion in the workplace, then became a topic of discussion on the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses e-lists, then morphed into a conference presentation and, more recently, was articulated as this journal article:

Happell, B., Wilson, R> & McNamara, P. (2014) Undergraduate mental health nursing education in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid. Collegian (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.07.003

Happell, B., Wilson, R. and McNamara, P. (2014) Undergraduate mental health nursing education in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid. Collegian (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.07.003

Anyway, I guess there are two points to this blog post:

One: Quality Control
Let’s make sure that we continue to defend the quality and depth of undergraduate nursing and midwifery training in Australia. We must never let it slip like the UK example of just three days training in three years. That is woefully inadequate.

Two: Speak Up 
If you’re a nurse or midwife with strong opinions about a subject, it doesn’t hurt to discuss these opinions online. As per this example, a discussion held online morphed into a conference presentation and a journal article. For me, anyway, the difference between it being a rant and a paper was the interest and input from a couple of Nursing Academics: Brenda Happell (@IHSSRDir on Twitter) and Rhonda Wilson (@RhondaWilsonMHN on Twitter).

References

Happell, B., Wilson, R. L. & McNamara, P. (2013). Beyond bandaids: Defending the depth and detail of mental health in nursing education. Paper presented at the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses 39th International Mental Health Nursing Conference Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Abstract in International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, Vol 22, Issue Supplement S1, pp 11-12 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/inm.2013.22.issue-s1/issuetoc

Happell, B., Wilson, R. L. & McNamara, P. (2014) Undergraduate mental health nursing education in Australia: More than Mental Health First Aid. Collegian (In Press) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.07.003

End

Thanks for reading this far. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 21st October 2014

Short URL: meta4RN.com/defend

A Mental Health Nurse in the General Hospital

MHCBelow is a copy of the blog post I was invited to submit at My Health Career. The website is targeted at high school and university students considering or pursuing a career in health, guidance officers, career development professionals, and others working in or with the health care sector.

To see the post where it was first published online, and/or to have a look around at the My Health Career website, please visit www.myhealthcareer.com.au/nursing/mental-health-nurse-paul-mcnamara

.

A Mental Health Nurse in the General Hospital

Paul trying not to look too much like a goob.

Paul trying not to look too much like a goob.

Paul McNamara has extensive experience providing clinical and educative mental health support in general hospital and community clinical settings. He holds hospital-based, undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications, is Credentialed by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN), and has been a Fellow of the ACMHN since 2007. Paul is a very active participant in health care social media, and is enthusiastic about nurses embracing “digital citizenship”. More info via his website meta4RN.com

There is an odd little sub-speciality of mental health services called “consultation liaison psychiatry”. This waffly, jargon-ridden mouthful of syllables is usually abbreviated to “CL”. What is CL? Easy – just think of it as “general hospital mental health”.

I’m a mental health nurse on a CL team. The only ward in the hospital I don’t visit is the mental health unit (the mental health unit already has heaps of mental health nurses – they don’t need me there). It’s the rest of the hospital I serve: the surgical wards, the medical wards and the maternity unit.

General hospital patients are more at risk of experiencing mental health problems than the general public – being sick is stressful. It works the other way around too: people who experience long-term mental health difficulties are more at risk of becoming physically unwell – being under lasting emotional stress can take a toll on the body.

Nurses, doctors, social workers and other allied health practitioners will phone CL when they have concerns about the mental health of a patient. Sometimes all that is required is a bit of information and clarification about medication or follow-up services available in the community – we do that over the phone. More often, we are asked to meet with the patient and determine what, if any, mental health matters can be sorted-out while they are in hospital.

The most common mental health problems experienced in the community are anxiety and depression – it’s the same in the general hospital – a lot of the people I meet with are experiencing either or both of these conditions. There are other mental health problems like eating disorders and deliberate self harm that sometimes require input from both the medical/surgical team and the mental health team concurrently. Helping-out with planning and providing support and care of these patients is a pretty big part of my job.

Sometimes it’s not the person in the pyjamas (the patient) who needs our support – sometimes it’s the communication, the systems and the clinical staff who benefit most from CL input. This can be in the form of structured education sessions or, more typically, in the form of supporting discussion, reflection and problem-solving on how best to meet the needs of the patient within the limited resources available in the hospital. In this aspect of the job, a CL nurse will try to help the clinicians involved step-back from the busyness and pressures of the hospital ward and take “a balcony view” of what is happening. By taking ourselves out of the chaos of a busy shift and calmly looking back at things with a bit of distance, sometimes we can see how we can “do business” in hospitals a little more constructively.

We also spend a lot of time “undiagnosing” (this is a “neologism” – a made-up word – I heard recently via Sydney psychiatrist Dr Anne Wand). The people we “undiagnose” the most are those who are experiencing grief. There can be a lot of grief in general hospitals, but we try to be careful not to confuse the emotions of grief (sadness, anger, temporary despair etc) with a psychiatric disorder. Grief emotions are often really uncomfortable but they are part of what makes us who we are. We don’t want to “psychiatricise” or “psychologise” the human condition. Grief is not something to be simply fixed; grief is a part of life – a difficult part of life – that is usually successfully navigated without psychiatric input. Support from loved ones and/or social workers and/or specific counselling services can help.

So, that’s an overview of what it is to be a mental health nurse in a general hospital. It’s a varied role where we spend nearly as much time with the general hospital nurses, midwives, allied health staff and doctors as we do with the hospital patients. The role involves direct clinical care, collaborating with colleagues and providing education. For more information on the speciality please visit my website or the consultation liaison nurses special interest group section of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses website.

END

Print Version (PDF): CLnurse

Thanks to Amanda Griffiths of My Health Career for inviting me to submit this overview of consultation liaison nursing.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Paul McNamara, 2nd May 2014

 

Trying to Stay Focused

PatientFocused Some days it feels like a cruel conspiracy.

Those are the days when it feels like the time and space I have made to speak one-to-one to the patient* is in the middle of a sports arena. The patient and I walk into the middle of the empty playing surface and make our preparations for meaningful discussion, for emotional catharsis, for education, for counselling, for disclosure, for discovery, for therapy.

Then the grandstands of the arena start filling with people with loud voices. These people are not providing frontline care, so we would like to think of them as supporters. However, they all seem to think of themselves as coaches. They each have their own special area(s) of interest and shout well-meaning advice from their seats in the grandstand.

It gets very rowdy and distracting. SystemsFocused So many supporters coaches. So many systems**.

Systems are what makes airlines so safe – apparently that’s why hospitals have become so system-focused over the last couple of decades. I think it is a bit silly that public health systems try so hard to align themselves with profit-making airline systems. The cost of a regional hospital redevelopment ($454m) is about the same cost as two Boeing 787s (source), However, they serve very different purposes: the hospital is filled with critically ill people aiming to become less unwell or die with dignity. Commercial jets are filled with tourists and business people going on a planned journey. The hospital is a place of unknowns: discovery, diagnosis, treatment, trials and strong, unpredictable human emotions. A commercial jet is a trumped-up bus that travels at a scheduled time on a scheduled route between clearly defined destinations, carrying only people who are wealthy and healthy enough to travel long distances.

Hospitals and airlines have such very different clients, expectations, control and outcomes – can they really teach-each other much about systems?

Nevertheless, I understand the rationale for systems, and will make no effort to argue against them. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if there was one healthcare system? As it stands in my workplace, the emergency department has a system (EDIS) that does not speak to the ICU system (MetaVision), which does not speak to the general hospital system (ieMR), which does not speak to the mental health system (CIMHA). And that’s just within one hospital – imagine how fragmented it gets when we start thinking of the primary healthcare and rural/remote outpatient sectors.

I understand that some of these systems, some of these competing demands, are very important – but not all of them are. For example, it is not important that a clinician spend time away from their patients to transpose a bit of information that is in one hospital system into another hospital system –  this is a matter of dumb systems.

Which is why nurses and other clinicians know that sometimes the safest, most compassionate, and most ethical thing to do is to turn their back on the distractions created by dozens of disjointed systems, and make the priority to simply be with the patient.

Why? Because we are trying to stay focused – patient focused.

*Clarification re using the word “Patient”

In mental health over the last couple of decades nomenclature has changed from “patient” to “client” to “consumer” or “service user”. I understand the rationale for this – it is to move away from the passive (i.e.: “patient” as someone that the “expert” diagnoses and fixes) to participant (i.e.: “informed “consumer” of a service). In my current role I provide mental health assessment, support and education in a general hospital – the people I see are, in this context, first-and-foremost medical/surgical/obsetric hospital inpatients. It is these people’s physical health that had them admitted to an acute general hospital as “patients”, hence my use the word here.

**All the systems named in the “Systems Focused” cartoon are real, as is the claim that using each one is VERY IMPORTANT.

Tech Tip

I used an easy-to-use iPad app called Notes Plus to draw the cartoons. As you can see, my artistic skills have pretty-much plateaued since kindergarten, as has my spelling. Nevertheless, I think the cartoon might have been a little better and a lot easier to draw if I had used a stylus – that’s what I would recommend if you plan to do something similar.

End

As always, your thoughts/feedback is welcome in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 6th April 2014

Perinatal Mental Health: A Good News Story

diabetes, for instance

diabetes, for instance

Most health messages are such a downer, surely there are many people who will either switch-off from the message, or become unduly alarmed. Compare health marketing to commercial marketing and it’s no wonder obesity is rising. Put frankly, Coca-Cola and McDonalds have better ads: they’re full of fun and optimism:

Things Go Better With Coke!  

McDonalds – I’m Lovin’ It! 

Don’t get me wrong: depression is a bugger of a thing, and perinatal mood disorders are especially poorly timed. Looking after a pregnancy/baby is tricky enough without tossing in anxiety and/or depression.

However, at the risk of sounding all Pollyanna about it, there are some good news stories we can talk about when discussing perinatal mental health. Here’s a small list of things I’d like mentioned in every antenatal class/similar forum for parents-to-be/new parents:

IMG_0328[1] 6 in 7 new mothers and 19 in 20 new fathers will not experience perinatal depression. Are there any other gambles that give you better odds?

[2] Symptoms are usually easy to recognise. There’s even a free online anonymous self-scoring tool available: justspeakup.com.au/epds

[3] If somebody is not sure how to start a conversation about mental health with their midwife, doctor or child health nurse, there’s a handy online tool to help build a checklist of things to mention: docready.org

[4] Information and resources are easy to find. In Australia the “big five” are:

[5] Support is easy to find too:

[6] There are a range of treatment options: it’s not a matter of  “one size fits all”.

[7] If required, there are some medications that can be used in pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.

[8] Recovery rates for postnatal depression are very good.

[9] Some places have access to specialist perinatal mental health clinicians.

[10] Mental health clinicians are not interested in stealing the baby. In fact, mental health clinicians seem quite pleased with themselves when they get to see parents and infants connecting and communicating with each other.

[11] If attachment between parent and baby does not happen as easily as expected (this happens a fair bit with anxiety and/or depression), there are video guides to help, for example: Baby Cues Also, in some towns and cities (especially those with a perinatal and infant mental health nurse), there are clinical staff who can help with this communication/attachment/bonding stuff too.

What’s This About Exactly?

During the week a couple of new mums declined referral to see a nurse (me) from the consultation liaison psychiatry service because they had preconceptions about how negative the experience would be. It’s not absolutely necessary for every parent to see a mental health specialist, of course, but I think we (that’s “we the health professionals”) should start fishing-around for ways to better describe the good news stories about perinatal mental health.

diabetes, that is

diabetes, that is

If Coca-Cola and McDonalds can convey a sense of fun and optimism out of the products they sell, surely we can convey a sense of fun and optimism out of the services we provide. We have something that’s much better than the offerings of either Coca-Cola or McDonalds, so let’s reorientate the language and recalibrate expectations by using positive language.

Maybe when perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) services in Queensland are re-established, we can re-launch with an upbeat attitude and slogan:

 PIMH for a healthy head-start!

End

What are your ideas for upbeat slogans and messages? Please add them in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 25th January 2014

Nursing’s Peculiar Privilege

Dear Reader: please don’t read this blog post if you are offended by strong swear words or find talk of suicide a trigger for unsettling/risky thoughts. Kind Regards, Paul.

Who is Going Behind the Curtains?

Working over Christmas and New Year made me especially cognisant of one of the peculiar privileges that we nurses have: we spend a lot of one-to-one time with the person who is medically/surgically recovering after a suicide attempt. My current role is Consultation Liaison Mental Health Nurse – a role that provides mental health assessment, support and education in a general hospital (more info about the role here). When the person is admitted to the general hospital after a non-fatal suicide attempt we are asked to be involved in planning and providing their care.

There are few things more privileged and more important than spending time with the person who is alive after deciding not to be. I do worry that this role is sometimes delegated to the least qualified (and lowest paid) member of frontline clinical care: the Assistant In Nursing (AIN) when there is “nursing special” in place (i.e.: when there are concerns that the person may abscond and/or harm themselves again).

Naturally, being an AIN does not mean you are incapable of sensitive, compassionate, safe care. I just think that “going behind the curtains” to assist in holding and containing the often very strong emotions of the person who has survived suicide is incredibly important. I don’t feel comfortable that someone without mental health qualifications or clinical supervision is tasked with sitting at the bedside for hours at a time. It may not be good for the either the person/patient or the AIN.

Suicide rates per year. Chart courtesy of www.mindframe-media.info

Suicide rates per year. Chart courtesy of http://www.mindframe-media.info

Parallel Processes

In clinical supervision we often explore the parallel processes and how they apply to our clinical work. When working in perinatal mental health I aimed for the therapeutic relationship to be a template for the parent-child relationship: kind and nurturing, responsive and interactive, empowering, educative and enjoyable. The idea being that, at some level, the qualities/values that inform the therapeutic relationship can then have a knock-on effect for the relationship the parent has with their baby. Not many perinatal mental health clinicians have an abrupt, cold, clinical style of interacting with their clients: they tend to be warm, gentle communicators.

When nursing the person who has survived suicide we need to think about parallel processes again. Julie Sharrock (a rock star of consultation liaison nursing) first introduced me to the phrase “holding and containing” as a part of the therapeutic relationship. Traditionally the notion of holding and containing has been attributed as a function of the inpatient setting/building: a place to keep people safe. Julie introduced it to me as a way to keep people safe, by reframing it as a concept for interpersonal therapy. That is, we nurses can assist and model the act of holding and containing difficult emotions.

For the person who has unexpectedly found themselves alive and in hospital after intending to end life, we may need to hold and contain the person physically for a short time, but (to my way of thinking) it is even more important to support the person to hold and contain their thoughts and feelings.

Thoughts are slippery, and prone to be dropped.

Feelings are brittle, and prone to cracking.

Holding and containing such difficult-to-secure, fragile things is fraught: the clinician needs their thoughts and emotions held and contained too. Its a parallel process: as I’ve discussed previously we need to nurture the nurturers.

Suicide rates per age group (2010). Chart courtesy of www.mindframe-media.info

Suicide rates per age group (2010). Chart courtesy of http://www.mindframe-media.info

Profound Moments

Some of the most profound moments of my working life have occurred while supporting the person who has survived suicide.

The incredibly dark humour: “I’m such a fucking loser I can’t even kill myself properly!” said the very nice man. He was not laughing out loud, but smiling at the grim absurdity of his situation. He was alive, but physically worse-off than when he decided to die: now fractured, urinating through a tube, receiving fluids and antibiotics via an IV line. More wounds. More pain. Yet, despite the extra physical insults, he was pleased that he had survived.

The worry: “Is my brain OK? I feel really agitated and confused.” asked the lady who had been in intensive care for a few days. Her brain was OK in the long-term, the distress she was experiencing was mostly short-term stuff:  delirium is really common amongst ICU patients. Hypoxic patients aren’t so lucky: they sometimes never recover the former function of their brain.

“You are the biggest fucking cunt that has ever existed in the whole world!”, said the man after being told he was unable to leave hospital. I was filling-in paperwork that would mean he was an involuntary patient as per the Mental Health Act. I didn’t think I was being particularly nasty. The mental health act is handy because there are times when I need to say, “It seems to me that you don’t have the capacity to keep yourself safe at the moment. So,  I’ll take some of the responsibility of keeping you safe for now. Naturally, we will hand the job back to you when you come good.” Using that framework, filling-in the paperwork for the mental health act is sometimes the most nurturing thing I can do. That’s why i was genuinely surprised, not offended, when he said, “You are the biggest fucking cunt that has ever existed in the whole world!” I asked, “Really? Worse than Hitler?” He laughed and said, “Yeah, Definitely.” I laughed too. Take that Hitler.

The person who had two high perceived lethality, but fortunately non-fatal, attempts to take his life in the fortnight before we met reworded Shakespeare’s famous opening line to Hamlet. Instead of saying, “To be, or not to be, that is the question”, he said, “After what I have experienced in hospital, I now think that it is better to have a difficult life rather than no life at all.” I was so pleased to hear him think that way, and at the same time felt so sad for those people who do not have the opportunity to reconsider: those people that bypass the hospital wards and go straight to the morgue.

These are profound moments in the lives of people.

Nurses, myself included, have the peculiar privilege of being with the people who are experiencing the most important days of their life: the first few days of life that they planned not to have.

Let’s not take that peculiar privilege of nursing lightly.

In Closing

Talking and thinking about suicide can be distressing. Australians can access support via:

 Lifeline – 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

MindHealthConnect www.mindhealthconnect.org.au

phone_hotline-40Outside of Australia and not sure where to get support? Google usually displays a red telephone icon and your country’s suicide support phone number when searching for a suicide-related topic.

As always, comments and feedback on the blog post is welcome. Suicide can be a sensitive topic to comment on, and this blog is the public arena; so, before wording your comment, please check-out this: Mindframe guide

Paul McNamara, 19th January 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Car vs Bike Wounds: even an illustration that completely lacks artistic merit can convey a lot of information more effectively than a page full of text.

Gingerbread Person Pic “Car vs Bike Wounds”. Even an illustration that completely lacks artistic merit can convey a lot of information more effectively than a page full of text.

This week at work we have been discussing the roll-out of the ieMR (integrated electronic Medical Record). At present it is not integrated with the existing mental health system (CIMHA: Consumer Integrated Mental Health Application), the existing emergency department system (EDIS: Emergency Department Information System) or the existing intensive care unit system (CIS: Clinical Information System). Let’s not be too distracted by that though – apparently there is an integration team beavering away in a back room somewhere: they’re teaching these hospital systems to talk to each other. Once that’s sorted-out the ieMR will be the best thing since bung fritz.

A hospital file diagram such as this can assist in conveying an understanding of the patient's experience.

A hospital file diagram such as this can assist in conveying an understanding of the patient’s experience.

A different thought crossed my mind though – will the ieMR make the bad art of gingerbread women/men, genograms and other diagrams obsolete?

I hope not – even my hastily drawn-on-an-envelope examples used on Twitter during the week and in this post convey meaning quickly and easily (hopefully). Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for typing words into a digital archive (in fact, I’m doing it right now!), but there are times where it is clearer to communicate with an illustration. I hope this is not lost as we transition to an electronic medical record.

The patient is the expert. The clinician asks them about their family and draws a genogram to organise information. Sometimes genograms explain a lot.

The patient is the expert. The clinician asks them about their family and draws a genogram to organise information. Sometimes genograms explain a lot.

Does your hospital/health agency have an electronic record that easily allows illustrations still? If so (or not) I would be grateful to hear from you in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 21st September 2013

Emotional Aftershocks

Warning: today I will take the risk of being ridiculed for over-sharing and being melodramatic (it’s a grand tradition amongst bloggers).

8683188_lgCrap Day at Work

Recently at work I spent a bit of time wondering whether I, one of my nursing colleagues, or one of the hospital patients or visitors was going to sustain a life-threatening brain injury at the hands of a man brandishing a fire extinguisher as if it were a weapon. Fire extinguishers are generally thought of as potentially life-saving devices. However, when a fire extinguisher is being held at shoulder height by a tall, fit, powerful young man on a violent rampage in a medical ward they don’t look like life-savers.

Fire extinguishers weigh 9kg and are made of steel. The fire extinguisher this man was holding looked a lot like a skull-cracking device to me. It was the most frightening workplace incident I have experienced.

I have been a nurse for 25 years. Like many nurses I have been struck while at work (39% of nurses have experienced physical violence according to this recent Australian survey, 36% worldwide says this quantitative review). I am lucky: I have only been hit by frail people with delirium or dementia, so have never been hurt – just surprised and amused. To illustrate: once, an elderly lady forgot I was the nurse making her bed, and suddenly started punching me (with the strength of a wet kitten) saying, “Stop it Malcolm! Don’t take my money from under the mattress and go to the pub again! You’re such a bastard Malcolm!” It was pretty funny – always wondered whether Malcolm was a memory from her past or a distortion of the present (probably a bit of both).

Zero Tolerance is Unrealistic and Unfair

I am not a fan of being abused or hit, but think that the “Zero Tolerance” campaigns that have popped-up in health services in Australia over the last 5-10 years are unrealistic and unfair.

This shouty "ZERO TOLERANCE NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE" poster hangs in the main corridor of a medical ward, adjacent to the nurses station.

This shouty “ZERO TOLERANCE NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE” poster hangs in the main corridor of a medical ward, adjacent to the nurses station.

Unrealistic because it is inevitable that health services, hospitals especially, will have a large percentage of patients who have cognitive and perceptual deficits due to the very medical condition that has them bought them to the health facility in the first place. More than half of older persons admitted to hospital will experience delirium, and about 9% of the over-65s (a significant component of health service users) have dementia. Often these people will not have the cognitive capacity to discriminate between friend and foe, and will, at times, lash out to defend themselves against a perceived threat. We can look out for the warning signs and be proactive in protecting ourselves, but we can not expect to transfer responsibility for our safety onto someone who does not have the cognitive capacity to even keep themselves safe.

In the health system it is very common to be spending time with people who are having the most traumatic, frightening and disempowering day(s) of their life. It would be lovely for staff if everyone experiencing acute emotional distress expressed their emotions in a clear, calm and composed manner, but is it realistic?

The “zero tolerance” concept is unfair because it is not reciprocated. We (that’s “we” as in “we the health system”) require patients and their loved-ones to be incredibly tolerant of us. Think waiting lists, physical discomfort, unplanned delays, unclear communication, unmet expectations, cancelled procedures, lack of privacy, lack of dignity, lack of control, lack of compassion, lack of progress… the list could go on. Can you find me a health facility where no patient has ever experienced these things? Our health system relies on people being tolerant – this “zero tolerance” malarkey doesn’t allow for a bit of crap.

Care and Crap

"Nursing ring theory: Care goes in. Crap goes out." courtesy of http://www.impactednurse.com/?p=5755 [thank you Ian]

“Nursing ring theory: Care goes in. Crap goes out.” courtesy of http://www.impactednurse.com/?p=5755 [thank you Ian]

Instead of zero tolerance, it is more realistic to expect that patients will occasionally need to vent their emotions. Not just the pleasant emotions like love, joy, gratitude and kindness, but also the less comfortable human emotions like grief, anger, sadness, worry, despair, frustration, fear, pain and hate. For these emotions swear words are adjectives, a raised voice is empowering, tears are cathartic.

In “Nursing Ring Theory” (more info here: impactednurse.com) when someone is in a ring that is smaller than the ring you are in you offer support, compassion, care and skilful expertise. When someone is in a ring that is larger than yours you are allowed to ventilate your emotions with them. It is pure client centred care: everyone sends care going towards the direction of the patient and accepts that there will be crap coming out at times.

This acknowledgement of crap coming out is not an offer to hold out nurses and other health care workers as targets for abuse. That’s not OK. However, let’s shelf the zero tolerance crap: of course we’re tolerant of people ventilating their emotions. All we ask is that nobody is put at risk and those closest to direct patient care also have an avenue to safely ventilate their crap.

In ring theory care goes towards the patient and crap moves away from the patient. Proximity to the centre of the ring will be a fair predictor of the intensity of both care and crap.

Fire Extinguisher Guy* 

Fire extinguisher guy is admitted to a medical ward for investigation of possible neurological disorder, but it might be something mental health related. So the Consultation Liaison CNC (me) spent a lot of time talking to fire extinguisher guy before the violent outburst, and again afterwards.

Fire extinguisher guy works hard, is creative, can be warm and funny at times; sadness, anger and tears bubble-up during our conversation then settle quickly. Talking to someone is both distressing and helpful, says fire extinguisher guy. He wants to get these strong, bouncing-all-over-the-place emotions under better control. Fire extinguisher guy’s experience of terrible abuse in childhood and his recent over-the-top cannabis and alcohol use wouldn’t be helping his labile hypomanic symptoms.

Fire extinguisher guy isn’t an unlikable person – he has a job, a car, a girlfriend, workmates, footy mates, other friends and a family. Fire extinguisher guy and the people who love him are all normal people. Fire extinguisher guy is one of the 20% of Australians who will experience problems with their mental health this year.

I am really grateful that fire extinguisher guy made the choice to direct his violence at property and not people. He had the capacity to make a very bad decision to hurt somebody; he chose not to. The only person physically harmed during this violent outburst was fire extinguisher guy himself: cuts from punching glass, bruises from punching and kicking windows, doors and walls of the medical ward.

I can’t figure out how long fire extinguisher guy’s violent outburst lasted. Replaying the scene in my mind I guess it was less than 2 minutes, but it’s like time measured in dog years… even though everything happened very quickly it somehow felt like slow motion too.

The fire extinguisher had been hurled into a storeroom doorway (THUD! CRACK!), the outburst was tentatively over, and fire extinguisher guy’s mum and i were lightly holding him and talking to him quietly when security arrived. Fire extinguisher guy allowed us to lead to him to an empty room and was cooperative with all of our suggestions and interventions. He apologised first to me, then to each of the other clinicians who provided care in those first couple of hours after the event. His apologies were heartfelt. He let the nurses, the doctor and the cleaner go about their business uninterrupted: his wounds were dressed, he accepted oral medications to dampen the intensity of his emotions, the blood and broken glass were cleaned-up, the other patients and visitors were reassured, detailed file entries were made, incident reports were filled-in, and negotiations between various members of the hospital’s multidisciplinary team were underway. The request for transfer off the medical ward could not be accommodated, but the insistence on two security guards overnight for staff and patient safety was.

Those of us up-close-and-personal to the incident took a couple of moments to exchange thoughts, but we tried not to get too bogged down in feelings at the time – it’s the beginning of the shift and fire extinguisher guy is just one of many patients on this busy medical ward.

Hole punched in the wall? No problem! One of the nurses covered the hole with this poster. Nurses are good at irony.

Hole punched in the wall? No problem! One of the nurses covered the hole with this poster. Nurses are good at irony.

There is a hole in the wall that fire extinguisher guy created by punching it. One of the senior nurses on the medical ward covers the hole in with an anti-violence poster. We all laugh at the delicious irony and get on with our jobs.

As with the poster covering the hole, we crudely paper-over the cracks… it’s not fixing a problem, just covering it over… that’s good enough for now.

Emotional Aftershocks

In the days that follow I find myself a bit preoccupied at times thinking about the event. Get teary every now and then when I think of what could have happened: those skull-cracking thoughts are the worst bit… acquired brain injury anyone?

Skull-cracking thoughts are from my fear and imagination not from what actually happened.

That’s a good reminder. Keep saying that.

I’m OK: no flashbacks, no vivid dreams, no avoidance, no hyperarousal. I was back at work the next day (left a few hours early because I stayed back a few hours with fire extinguisher guy the night before). I’m seeing patients in the same medical and surgical wards, spending time with my very supportive colleagues.

I’m OK: I’m resisting the urge to quietly whisper to every fire extinguisher in the hospital, “Stay where you are my little red friend. Stay gently hooked on the wall. Do not allow yourself to be raised higher than my head. Please don’t go violently leaping about medical wards – people don’t like that THUD! CRACK! sound you make. Stay exactly where you are my little red friend.”

I’m OK: I’ve told the story a few times now – it’s losing its potency. The funny bit about the poster is good – every story needs a punchline (you’re welcome). The scary bit about the fire extinguisher is getting less vivid – it feels more like a story from the past now. It’s turning into a half-joke about fire extinguishers staying on walls exactly where they belong.

I’m OK: the only thing I’ve noticed is a bit of kummerspeck (great word, eh?). Kummerspeck is a German word that literally translates as “grief-bacon” – it refers to the weight gained through emotional over-eating. I’ve had to let my belt out a notch, and my favourite shirt feels too tight. Still going to the gym, so it must be the eating, Better keep an eye on that.

Yeah yeah yeah. If you’re so OK why are you blogging about it?

Part of the motivation is catharsis. Very self-indulgent, I know.

More importantly, senior clinicians should offer information and support that will empower and protect junior clinicians. Just a few days after the most frightening workplace incident I have experienced these two tweets popped-up on Twitter:

I do not know either of these people IRL (In Real Life), but I do feel a tremendous responsibility towards Emily, Dani and any other nearly-nurse who is as enthusiastic and passionate as these two. But what to say to Emily and Dani? How do we nurture them safely into our profession and keep their enthusiasm intact?

Nursing – mental health nursing especially – needs people like Emily and Dani.

Sharing a battle story is not enough.

Referring to a patient as “fire extinguisher guy” is not a good example to set (more about that later – look for the red asterisk*).

As a senior nurse I should be supportive and encouraging to Dani, Emily and other enthusiastic nearly-nurses, and also be providing safety-tips and useful hints. I have two:

One: Make Like a Boy Scout

Be prepared.

Be prepared for some fantastic days at work where you’ll glide home feeling like you’re doing the most important and rewarding work that any one human can do. Those will be the days where you will use your knowledge-base, your skill-set and (most importantly) yourself to make a profoundly positive difference in somebody’s life. That person might never forget you.

Not every nurse gets exposed to violence or abuse, but you’ll see it up-close-and-personal through your patient’s eyes sometimes. Nurses do emotional labour: be prepared for the emotional aftershocks that come with the job. Find out about stress reactions and how to be pro-active in protecting yourself. I have an old, kind-of-dicky resource to share with you here, but you might find something better.

Two. Nurture the Nurturer

I’ve written about this before: meta4RN.com/nurturers

I am so angry that my nurse and midwife colleagues don’t have ready access to clinical supervision as a tool to reflect on practice and keep themselves (and their patients) safe. People say it would be too expensive to provide clinical supervision to every nurse who wants it, but there is huge cost already being paid. This cost (in terms of relationship stress, sleep disturbance, emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, substance use and kummerspeck) is being borne by individual nurses and the people who love them. Clinical supervision allows another way – through guided reflective practice many of these costs can be prevented.

I don’t see why looking after a nurse’s practice and emotional self through regular confidential support with a trusted colleague would be any less important than looking after a nurse’s back. Australian health facilities all have tools, time and training devoted to safe lifting, it is time to provide tools, time and training devoted to safe thinking.

Clinical supervision is available to mental health nurses, but not nurses in general hospital wards. In his epic novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller wrote:

People knew a lot more about dying inside the hospital, and made a much neater, more orderly job of it. They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn’t keep death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady. People gave up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital.

It is the nurses that make death and illness more neat, orderly and ladylike.

It is the nurses who paper-over the holes punched in the walls.

It is the nurses who stay on the ward to make sure that care keeps going in.

The nurses should be provided with an avenue to let crap out.

Guided reflective practice (aka clinical supervision) should be available for all nurses and midwives.

Closing Remarks

I would like to leave the story there because I have waffled-on for a long time already. However, it is necessary to address two tricky subjects raised in this blog post: [1] mental health and violence, and [2] my use of “fire extinguisher guy” when referring to a hospital patient.

Mental Health and Violence

Let’s get the facts straight:

  • the overwhelming majority of people who experience mental health problems are not violent: never have been and never will be
  • most violence is not perpetrated by people with a mental health problem
  • people who experience mental health problems are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators

I started specialist education in mental health nursing in 1993 and have spent most (not all) of my career working in clinical mental health nurse positions since then. I have never been physically assaulted by a person experiencing mental health problems. Never. However, earlier in the week there was a newspaper article reporting that “half of the nurses working on hospital psychiatric wards are themselves suffering from mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.” I know that I have been more fortunate than some of my colleagues.

There are lots of myths and misunderstandings about mental health and violence. Please scroll to the bottom of the post for evidence-based resources and references.

Explanatory Note re the use of “Fire Extinguisher Guy”*

Using the term “Fire Extinguisher Guy” protects confidentiality and is, obviously, an irreverent, playful way to refer to a person. I don’t think this is wise for somebody creating a professional social media portfolio – somebody might think I’m being disrespectful.

Yet, here i am doing it anyway. Why?

Irreverence, humour and playfulness can be useful defence mechanisms: used correctly they can trivialise the other/traumatic events and empower the self. During the event I did what I could (very little) to assist this man to regain control and to keep himself and others safe from physical harm. It would not be useful to dwell on how powerless and vulnerable we all were at that time. I spent many hours talking to the man both before and after the event and treated him with kindness, respect and dignity.

Care goes in. Crap goes out.

This blog post is some crap coming out.

End

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome (scroll down).

Paul McNamara, 11th August 2013

APS Citation & Short URL:
McNamara, P. (2013, August 11) Emotional aftershocks [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://meta4RN.com/aftershocks

References and Resources re Mental Health and Violence

SANE Australia have a very readable resource, downloadable fact sheet and MP3 file here

Queensland MIND Essentials includes a resource for nurses and midwives caring for a person who is aggressive or violent here

The references below are via Australia’s Mindframe National Media Initiative:

New South Wales Health. (2003). Tracking tragedy: A systemic look at suicides and homicides amongst mental health inpatients. First report of the NSW Mental Health Sentinel Events Review Committee.

Walsh, E., Buchanan, A., & Fahy, T. (2002). Violence and schizophrenia: Examining the evidence. British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 490-495.

Noffsinger, S. G., & Resnick, P. J. (1999). Violence and mental illness. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 12, 683-687.

Brennan, P. A., Mednick, S. A., & Hodgins, S. (2000). Major mental disorders and criminal violence in a Danish birth cohort. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57, 494-500.