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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Believing in ourselves and our clients – Getting back to basics

“Be victorious.”

That’s the motto of one of the care teams in the CAMH Complex Mental Illness Treatment Program. Displayed on a poster at the program’s entrance, those two words speak to the team’s belief in themselves to help clients heal and recover.

The team has dedicated itself to client care and workplace safety following an incident in early 2014 in which a colleague was injured by a client.

“It was a scary event and we were stressed out for some time,” says Registered Nurse Eva Stone. “John [Spavor, the team’s Manager] has been very supportive.”

The team, which specializes in inpatient treatment for clients with schizophrenia, follows detailed procedures on risk assessment and prevention, and has taken some new care approaches. The biggest change is getting down to the basics.

“As a team we look at what we are proud of, what we appreciate, and what we are grateful for. These values ultimately help our clients towards discharge,” says Eva. “When we work together, the whole thing moves forward and the clients can feel it. They pick up on that energy.”

John Spavor describes a customer service approach, in which clients are consumers of mental health services and staff make extra efforts to tailor care to client needs.

John gives the example of one client, a young man with schizophrenia who had not left the unit for several years. The client wanted to spread his wings, to try out new weight equipment at the CAMH gym. Yet fears caused by delusional thinking were holding the client back.

With team support, Recreation Therapist Janine Bakelaar challenged the young man to travel across the CAMH campus to use the fitness room.

“We told him we were guaranteeing his safety in regards to the fears he had expressed,” says John. “He went for a 90-minute workout that first time – that was huge. He saw his own strengths in that accomplishment.” The young man then tried other outings including a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game accompanied by a volunteer.

These milestones opened up the possibility of discharge and Registered Nurse Agerica Flores empowered the client by declaring: “We are going to be victorious!”

Complex Mental Illness Treatment team
“Be Victorious!” This CAMH Complex Mental Illness Treatment team dedicated itself to the healing journey for clients

With team support, the client has identified his own goals for discharge. It is a step by step journey for all involved. The team’s key players -- social workers, occupational and recreational therapists, nurses, nurse educator, advanced practice nurse, peer support worker, psychiatrists and manager – are working together on a transition plan to make it happen.

“Our clients, their families and the outpatient team are all part of discharge planning as well,” says Social Worker Carol Xiang.

She is a relative newcomer to the team, joining in 2014. “I feel the team is very focused on the safety of clients and staff. We have ‘red flag’ meetings each morning to discuss risks and ways to prevent them.”

The biggest form of prevention is a team that communicates, blends complementary skills, and empowers clients, Carol says. “The work can be stressful but I like to come to work, I am happy here, and we can pass that energy to our clients.”

As the nurse educator on the team, Debbilynn Murray describes a “cohesive, collaborative, inter-professional team that respects and values one another. This promotes a safe environment for all staff, clients, families and visitors. We learn from each other and we all have something to contribute.”

John says the team has seen an increased discharge rate in the past few months, with four longer-stay clients moving successfully to the community and outpatient care. Safe care by staff with clients and their families is the number one priority. “We continue to debrief and document ways to improve safety each day.”

And as a dedicated vision for the team, Agerica’s motto has stuck: “Be Victorious”

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