Embedding a Clinical Therapist as Staff Into a Faculty/School of Nursing

Thursday, 27 July 2017: 4:50 PM

Linda J. Patrick, PhD, MSc, MA, BScN1
Laurie M. Carty, PhD, BA, BScN2
Sheema J. Inayatulla, MBA1
Katelyn J. Verkoeyen3
(1)Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
(2)Faculty of Nursing,, University of Windsor, Windsor,, ON, Canada
(3)Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada

The mental health of post-secondary students on college and university campuses has received considerable media attention especially when harm to self or others is the outcome. Nursing students are not immune to psychological distress and mental illness (Stallman & Shochet, 2009). Compared to the majority of post-secondary students, nursing students reportedly have a higher risk of mental health difficulties including excessive stress, anxiety and depression that can lead to poor health outcomes (Chernomas & Shapiro, 2013; Fitzgerald, 2015). There are many campus wide resources for students to access at their respective institutions, but they are often unwilling to voluntarily seek counselling during periods of escalating stress and anxiety. According to Galbraith et al., they prefer instead to confide in friends and family (2014). This avoidance behavior was described by Goff (2011) as possibly due to the perception that accessing services is a sign of weakness or inability to cope with the requirements of being a nurse. Our experience has included students revealing ineffective coping skills and mental health related issues to clinical and theory teachers when unsuccessful in a course. Instructors struggle with separating academic advising from emotional support during a student crisis. In severe cases, intervention includes walking a distraught student to counseling services across campus for fear that they would harm themselves. Additionally, faculty voice frustration with delays in assessment and interventions by external therapists to allow students to have a timely return to their studies. The inability to provide a smooth transition back to clinical in particular resulted in higher attrition rates and delayed completion of the nursing program. In 2012, a part-time clinical therapist was hired as a permanent staff position in our Faculty of Nursing. Students self-refer to the therapist or are referred by our academic advisor or faculty. The addition of a clinical therapist to our team has led to our students receiving timely and often pre-emptive counseling for issues related to both personal and academic stress. Outcomes include decreased attrition rates across all four years of the baccalaureate program and an enhanced student experience.