[Advanced nursing practice: a must for the quality of care and mental health services]

Nicole Ricard, Claire Page, France Laflamme
Santé Mentale Au Québec 2014, 39 (1): 137-57
New professional legislation and reorganization of mental health services have had a significant influence on mental health nursing practice. Many nurses have demonstrated clinical leadership and have been able to adapt their services to the needs of the population specially in the primary health care setting. However, many believe that the role of nurses is not sufficiently known and optimally utilized in mental health services. In this article we take a critical look at the mental health nursing practice in Quebec and at the essential requirements for its development. This review aims to: 1) describe current trends in the changing roles and the modernization of mental health nursing practice in Quebec, 2) provide an overview of the development of advanced nursing practice and its impact on the quality of mental health services; 3) clarify the concept of advanced nursing practice and position its development in Quebec and 4) propose various strategies for optimizing the role of nurses and their complementarity with other professionals providing mental health services. This review presents innovative practices developed by nurses in the context of the restructuring of mental health services. For example, new nursing roles have been developed to improve the collaboration with general practitioners groups in primary care settings and facilitate the evaluation and monitoring of patient presenting medical and psychological problems. Another interesting innovation was set up by nurses in developing a new service to allow timely access to integrated care for patients with substance abuse and mental health problems. The various testimonies reported in this article illustrate the potential contribution of these nursing innovations in improving the mental health services in Quebec. Also, in few countries, the reform of mental health services has been a good time to recognize this potential. Thus, some countries have repositioned the role of mental health nurses and supported the development of new models of advanced practice in mental health. These developments have been particularly significant in the United States and Australia. In United States, during the 1990s, at least four models of advanced practice in mental health nursing have been developed leading to wide variations in the roles, education, job titles, scope of practice and legal authorizations. Consequently, a consensus model of uniform standards of practice, accreditation and education has been proposed. This LACE model (Licensure, Accreditation, Certification, Education) will be in effect in 2015. Australia has adopted a more systematic approach, unified and progressive to facilitate the development of advanced mental health nursing practice. Australia who, through their many publications, retains more attention since a clear definition of the role of the nurse practitioner in mental health and a legal framework has been adopted at the national level. The Australian experience and the finding from studies suggest that mental health nurse practitioners and nurses who are specialized in mental health have the potential to make a significant contribution to enhancing access to and quality of mental health care through flexible an innovative approaches. So there are more and more evidence and indications that Quebec should invest in enhancing the skills of mental health nurses through the development of advanced nursing practice and integration of this new model in primary care. In addition, researches, funded by the Canadian Services Research Foundation (CHSRF, 2010), shows that the contribution of advanced nursing practice has never been stronger and there is a broad consensus to its value for the Canadian health care system ( Lukosius-Briant, 2010). The implementation of advanced practice nursing role in mental health is part of best practices required to improve care and mental health services and should be taken into account in future Action Plan 2014-2020.


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