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Staff Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Nurse Makes a Difference in Young People's Lives

A most memorable moment in the career of Registered Nurse Patricia Merka was when she received a letter from the mother of a former patient. The mother wrote to let her know that her daughter, who as a young girl had struggled with social anxiety, had just completed her final year and was travelling abroad with friends. Prior to graduation, she had written an essay for her class about the woman who had helped her to change her life.

That woman turned out to be Patricia, who has seen many clients grow confident and independent over the past 15 years she has worked with CAMH's Child, Youth and Family program. But as nurses, she says, they don't always know whose lives they may have touched or had an impact on. "Often clients leave us and we don’t always know what has happened with them. We only have to believe that being with them on their journey through their struggles, listening to them and helping them find ways to navigate this period in their lives and find better ways to cope, all make a difference in some way."

Patricia Merka
Patricia works with four clinics at CAMH that serve a range of conditions young people experience: psychotic disorders; mood and anxiety; a consultation clinic for children with a range of illnesses and those with co-occurring disorders, such as Autism and ADHD; and the Better Behaviour Service, where she and her team members care for eight children with emotional and behavioral concerns in an on-site classroom setting known as CATCH (Community Assessment and Treatment for Children’s Health).

Patricia says, "I have embraced the challenge of having my time divided among several amazing teams. I have learned over the years something from each and every discipline, whether it be psychiatry, child/youth work, social work or psychology, and how they understand, assess and treat clients and families with mental health/addictions concerns."

Patricia is involved in providing individual assessments and a range of treatments, including Cognitive Behavioural, Dialectical Behaviour, Mindfulness Based and psychodynamic therapies. She facilitates a cognitive behavioral therapy group for teenagers who have experienced mood and/or anxiety concerns. She has also been involved in unique programs for teenagers in partnership with community agencies, such as the Burton Chill Foundation Snowboard Program and the Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders learn-to-sail program. 

The most challenging part of her job, she says, is being the only nurse in the outpatient stream of the Child, Youth and Family service as she can be pulled in many directions. "However, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have never been bored!" To get collegial support, she reaches out to her nursing colleagues in other programs, and regularly attends CAMH's Nursing Practice Council. 

Prior to starting to work with children and youth, Patricia worked on an adult inpatient unit for 10 years. She had just completed psychotherapy training, working with the child and adolescent population, when the position became available. She was excited at the change as she had always believed in the importance of earlier intervention.

All these years later, she still finds it rewarding when youth want to come back and are feeling helped. "It is a privilege when they are able to let you into their lives, their struggles and their accomplishments."

Nursing Week
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