The Practical Nursing program at Loyalist College combines classroom theory, lab work and clinical practice. The Loyalist program also has a key component that many colleges do not offer — a Psychiatric Nursing course. This course consists of theory as well as clinical placements on the psychiatric in-patient unit at Quinte Health Care (QHC) and in the community.
Karen Fraser, a professor in the Practical Nursing program at the College, describes the difference between the two clinical placements. “The hospital setting is much more acute and the concentration is on assessment, diagnosis and treatment while dealing with voluntary and involuntary admissions. The objective of community placements is to provide the student an opportunity for engagement with patients in their own environment. The student is able to assess whether the patient is following their treatment regime, needs further supports, etc. The emphasis in psychiatric nursing is on observation, assessment and communication — skills that will strengthen our students as practical nurses in whichever area they choose to work. Because there are so many stereotypes and stigmas attached to mental illness, many of our students are fearful when they enter the psychiatric nursing clinical component. It is uncanny the change that they undergo — their confidence, level of empathy and communication skills grow rapidly, and when they have finished the course I often hear how much they enjoyed it and several hope to be able to work in this field.”
“I have a much better understanding of mental illness and the myths that surround it,” said Dallas Parks, a second-year Practical Nursing student who has just completed a rotation with Assertive Community Treatment Teams (ACTT), which provides community support to patients outside the hospital. “I was very nervous when I started this rotation, not realizing the many different aspects of mental illness or the number of people affected by it. This experience will help me in any area of nursing I choose to work in.”
“Many people see the illness and not the person,” said Michelle Burke, a second-year student in the program. “This placement helped me see the person. The rotation took away the fears and the stereotypes that I had — something that would not have been possible if I had only been studying theory in a classroom. I love my program and the community placements have definitely made me realize that I would enjoy working in the area of psychiatric nursing.”
“The hands-on experience that students gain in their psychiatric rotation here at QHC is a wonderful opportunity for them and is a skill they can apply in any area of the hospital,” added Charlene Mulder, a full-time registered nurse at QHC, who teaches the Practical Nursing Psychiatric Clinical Rotation and is herself a Loyalist graduate. “I think that it is helpful that I am on staff here and that this has been my specialty for over 15 years. Psychiatry is about listening, communicating and recognizing clues to serious safety concerns that could perhaps prevent a catastrophe. I believe the students will be more confident, empathetic nurses as a result of this experience.”