Sechelt General Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) is fairly typical in that it sees a number of patients with mental health and/or addiction issues on a daily basis. Many of them are brought in by the RCMP under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act and until last September, offering them timely and appropriate care was a challenge.“EDs can be very busy places and the specialized training and time needed to assess and treat people with mental illness and addiction is not always available. Since we hired Kelsey in September we have been able to provide a more consistent ability to meet people in the emergency department and do a rapid assessment,” says Susann Richter, Manager, Sunshine Coast Mental Health and Addictions.
Kelsey Wagner is the Sunshine Coast’s first Mental Health Emergency Services Nurse (MHESN), who works Monday to Friday. Prior to Kelsey starting, the role was filled sporadically by nurses, mental health workers and psychiatrists at the hospital.”We've been working collaboratively with the Emergency Department, the RCMP and the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit to reduce ED wait-times for patients and police (who bring people in) and to shorten the length of stay in the hospital. Since Kelsey’s arrival, we are beginning to see some good results in these efforts thanks to rapid assessment and follow-up.”
Susann says Kelsey has the ideal personality for the position.
"She’s a very skilled nurse who has the ability to work with a variety of different stakeholder groups and who works well with GPs and other nurses,” say Susann. “ED staff are grateful to have someone specialized to assess and treat patients presenting with mental health crisis.”Kelsey knew the role of the Sunshine Coast's first MHESN would be demanding, but she couldn't imagine doing anything else or living anywhere else.
”I feel blessed to work with such an amazing group of people whether I am seeing someone in the ED, out of my office at Mental Health & Addictions or in the community,” says Kelsey. “My role, liaising between all of the different areas, would not be possible without the team around me. We have such a passionate group of people working in healthcare and other Emergency Services on the Sunshine Coast.”Kelsey’s passion for the role started years ago when she worked as a care aide in geriatrics, often doing shifts in the psychiatric unit if a patient needed close supervision. That experience spurred her on to choose a career in psychiatric nursing.
Upon graduating, Kelsey worked on an acute psychiatric unit before joining a new program called Parkview Older Adult Tertiary Mental Health (with Providence Health Care). Geriatric patients who had behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (many also had a co-morbid history of mental illness and/or addictions) were transferred from throughout B.C. to the unit to be stabilized.
“We practiced person-centred care and were successful in stabilizing and transferring patients back to their home communities. I loved being a part of the start-up of the new unit. I loved that job but wanted to move back closer to family on the Sunshine Coast,” says Kelsey, who grew up in Powell River.The Sunshine Coast RCMP continues to work collaboratively with VCH and has a plan to have an officer (with similar hours to Kelsey’s) act as a liaison between the detachment and the hospital. The plan is for Kelsey to join the officer on a regular basis to see more people in the community, similar to Vancouver’s Car 87, which is a joint emergency service between VCH and the Vancouver Police Department to respond to people in acute distress.
In the meantime, Kelsey will continue to accompany police officers if there is someone in crisis and who might need to be seen before being brought into hospital.
“I feel really honoured that I get to work with people, often when they are at their lowest point, and am able to make their transition through the health care system as smooth and positive an experience as possible,” says Kelsey. “This role melds all of my passions.”