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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH Nurses: with you every step of the way

May 9, 2016 - ​It’s Nursing Week 2016 -- time to shine a spotlight on the value and remarkable contributions of CAMH’s nurses and their specialty in mental health and addictions!

Did you know?

  • Nurses make up approximately one-third of all CAMH staff
  • Their work spans diverse areas including clinical, research, education, psychotherapy and leadership
  • Their professional licensing designations include registered practical nurse, registered nurse or nurse practitioner; other roles at CAMH include nurse educators and advanced practice nurses;
  • CAMH fosters and develops the next generation of nurses through professional development, mentorship and education opportunities.

Nursing Week
When it comes to CAMH’s mission to transform lives, nurses are with you – and our clients – every step of the way.

At the core of their work is the therapeutic relationship, says Dr. Rani Srivastava, Chief of Nursing and Professional Practice. “CAMH nurses work with clients’ strengths to achieve the best outcome and support recovery. At the same time, they are supporting and advancing CAMH’s mission and strategic goals.” Nurses at CAMH continue to leverage new technology, evolve their scope of practice, and share their expertise both at CAMH and in the broader health sector, she says.

CAMH is celebrating Nursing Week with a line-up of special events that run May 9-13. These include professional practice discussions, the Nursing Excellence Awards, and events hosted by the Ontario Nurses Association and OPSEU.

Nursing @ CAMH – past, present and future

This week, we’re also taking a deeper look at the past, present and future of nursing at CAMH. Watch for more coverage, including a profile of how a CAMH nurse is supporting her client’s recovery journey, a blog on nursing mentorship, and perspectives from four leaders on the vision of nursing at CAMH.

Today, we begin with an interview with a senior nurse and leader at CAMH: Margaret Gehrs.  Now Director of Interprofessional Practice for ACST, Margaret was a front-line nurse and nursing leader at both the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and St. Michael’s Hospital earlier in her career. We asked Margaret about trends she’s seen in the specialty of mental health and addictions nursing, including the evolution in our approach to concurrent disorders.

Margaret GehrsMargaret Gehrs, Director of Interprofessional Practice, ACST

What significant changes stand out for you when it comes to the nursing discipline at CAMH?

We have developed a deeper understanding of how to treat people who have concurrent mental health and addictions problems. I remember a time earlier in my career when I was being trained to do emergency assessments in the Emergency Department. At that time, addictions and mental health were almost two solitudes. I recall assessing a patient with depression and heavy drinking, and was coached to refer him to addictions treatment first. Today, we can help a patient with both issues through integrated care and specialized expertise and services.

How have the psychiatric and addictions specialties evolved in nursing?

We now have a clear specialty and career path for psychiatric/mental health nursing. After graduating with a general Nursing B.A., and gaining two years of psychiatric/mental health nursing experience, we can then write the Canadian Nurses Association exam, which provides a national certification in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing.

We are making strides in the specialty of addictions, but this area still needs more attention. Almost one third of our admissions at CAMH are for addictions issues. So we need a competent nursing workforce to care for this population. The Canadian Nurses Association and Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse have approached CAMH to gain knowledge and expertise on this issue. In particular, they are looking for our expertise to build an addictions competency framework, which will guide nursing professional development across Canada. This framework will include nursing competencies related to alcohol and opioid dependence treatments. Our Advance Practice Nurses Sara Ling and Alison Watson -- together with our expert Medical Withdrawal Service and Addiction Medicine Service nurses -- are documenting those competencies. They will be sharing that expertise with these national groups.

How is CAMH investing in the next generation of nursing leaders?

We need to constantly invest in nurses who will lead clinical teams and advance clinical practice in future. Through generous donations from the Barford family, we are receiving funding for 23 graduate nursing scholarships over 10 years. As well, the funding covers up to two advanced practice and leadership internships each year.

As a result, we are beginning to see our Barford scholars take on leadership roles at CAMH. For example, Kim Johnston has taken on a Manager role. Sara Ling and Christine Bucago have moved into Advanced Practice Nurse roles, and Elisabeth Nardi is a University of Toronto Clinical Instructor for undergrad nursing students at CAMH.

We want to support the next generation of nurses at CAMH and we are so proud of our emerging nursing leaders. Along with our community of senior nursing leaders and mentors, and our hundreds of nurses across CAMH, they are investing their time and expertise to enrich nursing at CAMH.

We’re especially proud of everything we’ve achieved together to make CAMH a centre of excellence for psychiatric and mental health nursing in Canada!​

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