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Jackson examines role of RPNs in mental health

The Brandon Sun - 2/28/2019

After years of research into psychiatric nursing in the province, John Jackson presented his findings at Brandon University on Tuesday.

Jackson's thesis defence focused on what further role advanced practice psychiatric nursing might play in the delivery of mental health services in Manitoba.

"(The research), it's helping to form a body of evidence that government or policy makers can use to make decisions, like should RPNs (registered psychiatric nurses) be regulated to have an advanced practice role," Jackson said after his presentation.

It's information he has compiled over the course of four years, and it's a topic he said has always interested him.

Jackson graduated from the bachelor of science in psychiatric nursing program at Brandon University back in 2014, and now works as the executive director of Samaritan House Ministries.

"(My interest) stems from knowing that RPNs come with a particular passion and a particular expertise," he said. "It makes sense to me that people with the expertise should do the work."

Registered psychiatric nurses could be more heavily involved with assessing people for admission to a psychiatric unit under the Manitoba Health Act, he said. Instead of having to wait to see a clinical psychologist, with extra training and education, patients could instead go and see a registered psychiatric nurse.

It would reduce the time that people would have to wait, he said.

In his study, which began as a systematic scan of the health system in Manitoba, he found that wait times for mental health were prolonged.

His study focused on clinical advanced practice psychiatric nurses' lived experiences, and how they might be positively applied toward problem-solving.

It's the first of its kind, he said.

He also looked at the availability of psychiatrists, which was an issue across the province, particularly in the more rural areas.

They're unevenly distributed in terms of geography, he said. The further north, the fewer and fewer there are.

"The number of physicians choosing to enter psychiatry doesn't seem to be keeping pace with number of psychiatrists that retire," he said.

Jackson said that he hopes that people would take away from his thesis defence that with the right education, registered psychiatric nurses could have the ability to take on an advanced practice role.

"Psychiatric nursing has a strong legacy in Manitoba from the first university based degree for psychiatric nursing, so it's a logical next step for RPNs in Manitoba to be able to get extra powers," he said.


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