Friday, October 4th, 2013 - The University of Adelaide
More holistic healthcare across all areas of nursing will result from nursing students at the University of Adelaide working in a mental-health setting during their first year of study.
The University of Adelaide's School of Nursing is the only nursing school in the State to offer mental health training placements to first-year students.
This year, more than 100 nursing students – 24 of them in their first-year – have undertaken mental health work placements.
Speaking in the lead up to Mental Health Week (7-13 October), Associate Lecturer Briony Lia says students are already benefiting from this early exposure to mental health care.  "The incidence of mental illness and emotional problems in the community is increasing, so it's important that we train our future nurses to be ready for these situations," Ms Lia says.
"For first-year students, working in a mental-health setting puts them out of their comfort zone and challenges them, but it also provides them with great opportunities for personal and professional growth.
"We've already seen skills development among these students, such as recognising the signs of mental illness, changes in people's behaviour, and being able to communicate effectively with those who suffer from a mental illness.
"This will have flow-on benefits in whatever area of nursing our students work in, and will give them a more holistic approach to nursing," she says.
First-year nursing student Candice Lee has today completed her placement at Glenside Hospital.  "Entering this placement I was aware of the stigma surrounding mental health," Candice says.  "The experience has given me a profound insight into mental health and the opportunity to gain first-hand experience into the treatment and care of mental health consumers.
"This experience will definitely be invaluable to have in any area of nursing.  For example, my communication skills were challenged in the mental health setting but the techniques I learned to overcome this will be transferrable to my further learning as well as my professional practice."
Nursing student Isla Fraser has completed two mental health work placements, one in first year at Glenside, and another in second-year in a community setting at Tranmere.  She says: "Gaining experience working with patients with a mental illness is vital for students as it gives an insight into how to manage and support patients with specific illnesses.  I believe this is important because mental health is so prevalent in our society today."
This project has been made possible with funding from Health Workforce Australia, an Australian Government initiative.

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