Course Exam: AU Courses, up close – Professional Practice in Mental Health Promotion (NURS 435)

Course Exam: AU Courses, up close – Professional Practice in Mental Health Promotion (NURS 435)

Attention, Post LPN BN Nursing Students. A new nursing course is currently rolling off the AU press: Professional Practice in Mental Health Promotion (NURS 435)! For those studying in the Post LPN BN program, NURS 435 is “one of the first required paced clinical courses… they will attend,” indicates course author and AU assistant professor Dr. Sherri Melrose. NURS 435 focuses not only on “textbook” mental health, but includes exciting course features like clinical practicum experiences and more.

Everything about NURS 435 is intriguing, including the course texts. “In addition to the required psychiatric mental health nursing textbook, students work with a second text authored by an individual struggling with depression and a third text on street drugs authored by a Calgary Police Detective,” notes Melrose.

The course content of NURS 435 is divided into five main sections, each of which details a specific mental health topic. The course opens with a comprehensive introduction to mental health, focusing on management approaches to mentally ill patients, as well the behaviours, moods, and thought processes exhibited by these patients. Students will be able to “recognize acute symptoms of mental illness” using course information, says Melrose. Once this has been mastered, students proceed to explore screening and referral instruments in the psychiatric mental health field. This involves “construct[ing] assessment, screening and referral documentation relevant to a variety of disciplines and health care contacts,” notes Melrose. In the third section, students discuss the “stigma and barriers associated within the field of mental health,” gaining insight into potentially damaging “labels” used on mental health patients. The second to last section in the course consists of two units that focus on various types of addictions at the individual and community-based levels. Dr. Melrose indicates that students also “analyze the implications of addictions for individuals, the family, and the community.” The fifth and final section of NURS 435 reflects the course title: the many and varied aspects of mental health promotion.

Carefully scheduled throughout the course is an exciting course feature: students can complete the course over a traditional 14 week semester by attending “classes in their home communities both virtually through WebCT course delivery and in-person through clinical placements,” says Melrose. Clinical groups in the course are kept relatively small — between 8-10 students — to enhance each student’s learning experience.

NURS 435 also includes a clinical practicum, which totals 140 hours of practice achieved over both a two-week full-time period at an Alberta “provincial mental institution,” and “additional individual mentored practicum in [each student’s] home community.” Before beginning the clinical practicum placement in Alberta, students have an online orientation to help introduce them to what the practical session will be like, and why it is necessary. Dr. Melrose writes that the orientation presentation includes “interviews with staff members working at the hospital, students who have completed the practicum and a slide show tour of the facilities.” During the interviews, hospital staff members discuss “their motivation for entering psychiatric nursing and their passion for the field;” interviewed students explore topics of relevance to current students, including student concerns, perceived challenges of the practicum and “strategies for coping” with these. The slide show, which is narrated by Dr. Melrose, focuses on practical tips in addition to having great visuals created by Rick Roder, instructional media analyst at the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies.

Student evaluation in NURS 435 is achieved through completing a quiz, a portfolio, and a scholarly paper.

“¢ The quiz, worth 20% of the final grade, focuses on the course content and is completed in the fourth week.
“¢ The portfolio is worth 60% of the final grade and consists of several parts. The first is a report on a mental health problem prevalent in the student’s community. The second is an essay with the intriguing topic, “Lunch with the Theorists” in which, Melrose explains, “students present conversations that might occur if they sat down at a table with nursing and psychological theorists and joined them for lunch.” In addition, the completed portfolio will contain “an analysis of a referral instrument relative to the learners’ current or future practice” and two in-depth case studies compiled “in collaboration with the mental health team,” notes Melrose. Because the portfolio assignments can be completed with help from other students and the instructor and staff at the clinical sites, they invite collaboration and reflection, a form of educational measurement that is believed to be a more authentic means to assess student abilities than those that rely solely on instructors observations of students in clinical areas.
“¢ The final 20% includes writing a scholarly paper to -“demonstrate a critical analysis of a mental health issue of particular relevance to the learner’s current or future practice,” says Dr. Melrose. The paper must have a minimum of six credible references in addition to being five pages in length.

For more information, visit the course syllabus at: www.athabascau.ca/html/syllabi/nurs/nurs435.htm

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