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CAMH: With nurses every step of the way

Nursing Blog

By Christine Butler, Nurse Educator, Professional Practice Office

As I was reflecting about what to write in this blog I was thinking about my nursing career. The theme of Nursing week 2015 is Nurses: With you every step of the way. I began to think about my journey in nursing, and how CAMH has been with me throughout my nursing career.

In 2010 I started at CAMH as a student in the First Episode Program, moving on to become a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) and Registered Nurse (RN) in the Mood and Anxiety Program, a RN in the Emergency Department, and most recently as a Nurse Educator in the General Psychiatric Unit (GPU)/Acute Care Unit (ACU). I was able to obtain my Registered Practical Nursing Diploma while attending University to become a Registered Nurse, and it was through a bridging program that I was able to work as an RPN while completing my degree.

Before embarking on my Registered Nurse student placement in the First Episode Program, I was envious of my fellow students, who knew what specialty they wanted to enter. To my delight, within a few weeks of my placement at CAMH, I was confident that I had found the nursing specialty for me. As a student I was able to see a few clients of my own, participate in collateral assessments, and monitor clients for the Metabolic Syndrome. When I started working at CAMH’s Mood and Anxiety Alternate Inpatient Milieu Setting (AIM) as a casual RPN in 2010, I was so excited to be given an opportunity that was in direct correlation to my student placement. While working as an RPN in AIM I was able to work to my full scope of practice, which entailed caring for up to five stable clients: Completing assessments, interventions, and mental status monitoring, medication administration and symptom management.

In late 2011, I embarked on my full time job at AIM. I was excited in the opportunity to work as a full time RN, doing something I really believed in, and working within a multidisciplinary team to support people to increase their coping skills while on their journey of recovery. Working as a Registered Nurse in AIM allowed me to take on the role of charge nurse, take verbal orders and work with more unstable patients, in addition to my previous duties. Within that program, a fellow nurse pushed me forward and encouraged me to take on leadership roles and put myself in new, sometimes challenging situations.

After a few years at AIM I wanted to increase my acute psychiatric nursing skills. I applied to work in the Emergency Department. When I read the weekly published incident reports prior to starting in the ED, I started to become nervous because I had never participated in a psychiatric emergency and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But taking a job in the ED turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I loved working in triage and assessing clients and representing CAMH as the first person a client saw. The opportunity to care for individuals, who had a variety of needs, was refreshing because I recognized that I was building upon my skill base, which in turn would make me a better nurse. Working in the ED also increased my knowledge of services that CAMH has to offer and it increased my compassion for clients and my passion for education and supporting a standard of accountability in a just culture. This was one of the reasons I applied for the position of Nurse Educator. My experience in inpatient care as well as the ED helped to prepare me for my current position of Nurse Educator on GPU/ACU.

I was excited to take the position of Nurse Educator; the night before my first day I had never been more anxious. I thought to myself ‘Have I fooled everyone? Can I really do this? What if I fail? What if I don’t like it? What if they don’t like me?’. I really wanted to make an impact and be able to support the front line nursing staff. As a Nurse Educator, I am able to see what we collectively do well as an organization. I also have the opportunity to facilitate practice and implementation of initiatives such as Situation Background Assessment Recommendation (SBAR) and Diminishing Violence and Aggression, and to act as a support person for front line staff. I see how hard the GPU/ACU team work every single day caring for clients, who have a multitude of complex needs.

As a Nurse Educator, I am able to share my knowledge that I have gained as a RN with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I have had the opportunity to represent the Professional Practice Office at conferences, but the most important thing that I have been able to do in this role is advocate for the clinicians and clients. This journey has not always been easy, but I have come to realize that growth is not easy.

As we embark on Nursing Week 2015, I encourage you as you read this to speak to the nurses you encounter and tell them what you appreciate about them. The nurses I work with challenge me to grow on a daily basis. I have developed skills that I did not know I could.

I am young in my nursing career and I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I am certain that CAMH will be with me and I am thankful and appreciative of that. To my fellow nurses – please enjoy the festivities of Nursing Week and support and encourage each other!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. annick aubert #

    At long last , and with a very moving story from one of its front-line workers CAMH confirms its commitment to the treatment and recovery from serious mental illness,one of the most debilitating illnesses if left untreated.

    May 13, 2015
  2. Kama Kalia #

    Great blog! Thanks for sharing your experiences at CAMH, Christine.

    May 20, 2015

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