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Speakers at the 10th annual Advanced Practice Nursing Conference take questions from an engaged audience of nursing students, educators and professionals.

Focus on mental health and advocacy at graduate nursing event

March 19, 2020 — 

Over 50 nursing students, educators and professionals recently attended the 10th annual Advanced Practice Nursing Conference in Marshall McLuhan Hall at Fort Garry campus to examine the role advanced practice nurses play in mental health advocacy and care.

“An advanced practice nurse is a masters-prepared nurse who works beyond the scope of an RN or BN, working as educators, nurse practitioners or clinical specialists. They’re often the ones educating nurses, like at the College of Nursing, in specialty roles and consultation roles in hospitals, or directly with clients,” said Caitlin Bloxom, one of the event’s organizers.

Dr. Elaine Mordoch

Bloxom, a second-year student in the college’s nurse practitioner stream, said her committee chose the topic because advance practice nurses play a significant role in the management of mental health, often working one-on-one with patients to coach and counsel them.

“Mental health advocacy is such an important part of our role, and we know that the realities in practice can be challenging, so we thought we’d bring in some experts in the field,” she said.

Speakers for the event included Dr. Elaine Mordoch, adjunct professor and research affiliate at the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Pine Falls, Man.-based nurse practitioner Jesse Lamoureux and April Gage, a public health nurse with the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority.

Gage, a recent UM master of nursing grad, discussed her research into home visiting programs in Manitoba that offer mental health strategies and support to parents. “If we focus on maternal child strategies, we think this will benefit the entire family and the rest of society,” Gage told attendees.

Jesse Lamoureux

Lamoureux, who also has a master’s degree from the College of Nursing and now runs a private practice in Pine Falls, shared his experience working with people with addictions. In his practice, Lamoureux provides addictions medicine, such as opioid agonist therapy, suboxone and methadone, and harm reduction techniques like providing clean needles to someone addicted to intravenous drugs.

“We have to encourage the new paradigm of treatment, which is harm reduction,” he said. “Some people may think you’re encouraging addiction, but no, you’re not. What you’re doing is building a relationship with someone, so when they’re ready for treatment they’ll feel safe with you and come to you for that treatment.”

Encouraging the emerging advance practice nurses in the crowd to be advocates in their careers, Mordoch looked back at moments in her career that related to advocacy and mental health.

“Nurses are charged to advocate for persons receiving care, if they believe the health of the person is compromised by factors beyond their control, including the decision-making of others,” she said. “In acute mental illness, people often develop compromised judgement and they become involuntary patients. They lose their autonomy and their rights. It’s up to the advanced practice nurse, as a leader, to ensure that the degree of rights withheld are minimal and not overbearing.”

April Gage

The event concluded with a lively panel discussion and question period that had nursing students and professionals reflecting on the high level of care and support required in their field.

“We were very pleased with how engaged the audience was,” Bloxom said. “It was great to hear so many strong nursing voices in one room having an engaged, informed discussion regarding the challenges and priorities of advocating for mental health services for our community.”

The event, hosted by the Graduate Nursing Students Association, the event was funded in part by a College of Nursing endowment fund.

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