Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

COMBINING Creativity and Community Partnership in Mental Health Clinical Experiences

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

COMBINING Creativity and Community Partnership in Mental Health Clinical Experiences

Article excerpt


Lack of parity for mental health treatment, coupled with the trend toward more community-based care, has challenged nurse faculty to identify quality, creative psychiatric clinical sites. The purpose of this article is to educate nurse faculty on practical, creative ways to identify nontraditional community psychiatric clinical experiences. Service learning, community partnerships, and group interaction are emphasized. Literature regarding recent health care initiatives and widely accepted criteria for quality nursing education are discussed as foundations for creating alternative mental health clinical experiences. The authors' experiences implementing these concepts are discussed. Community partnerships and alternative clinical sites/experiences benefit students, faculty, institutions, and the community.

Key Words Clinical Experiences - Community Partnerships - Mental Health - Nursing Education - Service Learning

DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION, coupled with misunderstanding and the ongoing stigma of mental illness, has resulted in decreased funding for mental health care (1).

IRONICALLY, although mental illness and substance abuse problems are leading causes of disability and death in the United States, there has been a sharp decline in the number of inpatient treatment facilities for individuals with mental illness (2). The overwhelming majority of psychiatric care is provided in the community in a variety of treatment settings. According to a report by Regier and colleagues (3), only 40 percent of people aged 18 to 54 years old meeting the criteria for a specific mental illness received any treatment during the years 2001 to 2003. The result is that 60 percent of such individuals are silently struggling with mental illness. The decline in institutional settings presents complex challenges for the mentally ill and their families, treatment providers, and society. It also challenges nurse faculty to explore alternative psychiatric clinical sites for nursing students. Using nontraditional, community clinical sites is one solution to the problem of where to find safe, quality, local learning environments in which students can apply theoretical concepts and master psychiatric nursing skills.

Community Partnerships Through Service Learning Community partnerships within a service-learning environment are mutual benefits for health care providers, the mentally ill, faculty, students, and the community. The American Nurses Association Social Policy Statement (4) defines service as the establishment of a caring relationship that facilitates health and healing. Elements of service learning may include a series of activities (5): coordinating partnerships between the school and community to meet identified community needs; providing opportunities for students to actively use newly acquired academic skills and knowledge in real-life clinical situations; enhancing what is taught in the classroom to learn about cultural diversity and develop a sense of caring for others, along with an ethic of civic responsibility.

The PEW Health Professions Commission (6) recommended community-based service learning as an integral part of nursing education, to increase a student's opportunity to apply concepts in giving service and create a "capacity for connectedness, and learning social responsibility as professionals" (7, p. 175). Underscoring the PEW Commission report, the Institute of Medicine's Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality (8) and Priority Areas for National Action (9) reinforce community-based service learning as a cornerstone to educating nurses. Communitybased service learning is further supported through the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which endorses the need to improve human services for the country's neediest citizens (10). Faculty found this support reinforced the college of nursing and university mission for educating students.

Achieving Educational Objectives Educational experiences, when aligned with major health care initiatives, afford clinical nursing students the opportunity to be part of a greater experience, specifically the holistic health care of diverse populations. …

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