13:55 PM

Nursing Values: Respect

Rachel Mark DNP CPNP-PC

Rachel Mark, DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC, learned firsthand that conversations with patients about mental health could save lives. During Rachel’s first year as a nurse practitioner, the number of mental health appointments assigned to her was overwhelming. She feared she would say the wrong things to this population and cause them more harm. 

Rachel’s personal growth in helping those with mental illness stimulated her to focus her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) project on an intervention that would empower nurses with the confidence to communicate with patients and their families about mental health concerns. 

“A psychiatry case manager initiated a suicide screening tool in the Emergency Department, and her research found that some nurses are uncomfortable communicating about mental illness,” Rachel said. “There is a stigma toward patients with mental health disorders.” 

Rachel networked with organizations across the nation collecting video productions she would use in her “A Walk in My Shoes” behavioral health stigma reduction bundle. These videos would potentially connect nurses with stories of those who have a mental health illness, and a history of health care stigma while providing communication tips for this topic. 

Rachel also met with This is My Brave, an organization whose mission is “to empower individuals to put their names and faces on their true stories of recovery from mental illness and addiction.” A mother from that organization shared in writing the personal story of her son’s death by suicide. 

Rachel and her project team members developed an interactive computer-based training education on behavioral health stigma, risk factors, and communication tips. Participants watched videos, read the letter on behavioral health concerns and stigma, and completed the Opening Minds Scale for Healthcare Providers' Attitudes subscale before and after the intervention. 

The pre- and post-survey results showed a statistical improvement in confidence in helping those with behavioral health illnesses. Monthly inpatient clinical therapy referrals orders increased. 

In conclusion, participation in a computer-based training program with education and video contact is associated with behavioral health stigma reduction and increased access to care for behavioral health concerns. 

“Having the confidence to initiate these conversations can be lifesaving. I’m proud of what I perceive will happen with this initiative,” said Rachel.