Author Q&A: Essentials of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing

With the perfect balance of essential nursing interventions and clinical content, Essentials of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: A Communication Approach to Evidence-Based Care, 4th Edition offers the perfect balance of essential nursing interventions and clinical content. This streamlined psychiatric text includes need to know information and key DSM-5 content students need to pass their course and prepare for the NCLEX®.

As a new contributor to this title, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Chyllia D. Fosbre, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC, shares her insights into what faculty need to know at the forefront of educating future nurses on mental health.

How have you seen psychiatric mental health nursing change over the years?

While there is still a significant amount of stigma surrounding mental health issues, there are more people speaking out and speaking up. There is increasing awareness and acceptance of mental health issues now than before. While I believe nursing has always held a more holistic view which includes acknowledging mental health, organizations are starting to put more of an emphasis on improving mental health for both their employees and the patients they serve.

How can future nurses better acknowledge mental health in patients and combat any stigma they may have?

First and most important, talk about mental health! There is a tendency to avoid conversations about mental health and this only fuels the stigma. As a nurse, ask your patients if they are struggling with anxiety, depression, or have thoughts of suicide. If a patient is dealing with a major health issue, there is a very good chance they are dealing with anxiety and likely depression. Someone with pre-existing mental health issues facing a new physical illness will likely have an increase in mental health symptoms while they are ill. Nurses are in a unique position to be the first to start the conversation. They have the training and skills to address mind, body, and spirit (or, in more medical terms, the bio-psycho-social aspects of health). It is our responsibility to talk about mental illness and promote mental health. Regardless of the setting, we will be working with patients who have a mental illness so we need to make sure we are tuned in and can identify those people. Not doing so is neglecting our professional responsibility.

What are some of the challenges nurses face when it comes to addressing mental health and how can classrooms better equip students to face these challenges?

Our own perceived fears of whether or not we can handle someone else’s mental health issues hold us back. If we ask patients if they are having thoughts of suicide, we have to do something with that. If we ask a patient if they are feeling depressed, we may find ourselves trying to comfort someone who is crying. That can be very uncomfortable. In the classroom setting, more emphasis could be placed on the art of nursing and the ability be present for our patients. 

Another major challenge is the anxiety that is triggered IN nursing school. About halfway through my nursing program, a side conversation started about mental health and anxiety. More than half the students in the class started medication for anxiety or high blood pressure during nursing school. Nursing school is hard. It is anxiety-provoking and even the best of students struggle. Nursing is hard. We carry the weight of our patients’ lives.  We should be teaching and practicing emotional regulation skills to promote resilience during high-stress times. Before a test, do a visualization. After a long and intense lecture, do something physical to shift the energy of the room. Introduce a variety of self-care skills and do them. We wouldn’t just talk about how to start an IV. We shouldn’t just talk about self-care.

What advice do you have for faculty teaching students in psychiatric mental health from your professional background?

In every area of nursing, you are going to be working with people who have mental illnesses. As faculty, your students will be facing mental health issues. The stress of nursing school can often cause high levels of anxiety and even depression. Learn to recognize it in your students, teach self-care, and model compassion so we can build stronger nursing professionals.