Relocating care: negotiating nursing skillmix in a mental health unit for older adults

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HENDERSON J, CURREN D, WALTER B, TOFFOLI L and O'KANE D. Nursing Inquiry 2011; 18: 55–65 Relocating care: negotiating nursing skillmix in a mental health unit for older adultsMental health care in Australia in the last 20 years has moved from stand-alone psychiatric hospitals to general hospitals and the community. This paper reports an action research project exploring the experiences of nurses on an acute mental health unit for older adults staffed with a skillmix of mental health and general nurses, which recently transitioned from a psychiatric to a general hospital. The new service provides comprehensive health care, including the management of physical co-morbidity and a recovery orientation. Recovery acknowledges the role and rights of consumers and carers in planning and management of care, choice and individual strengths (Shepherd). The new ward received additional resources to establish the model of care, including a broader skillmix. The paper explores the dynamics of development of a new model of care and of bringing together staff with different professional orientations, cultures and priorities. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with 18 staff. Analysis resulted in three themes relating to the impact of competing goals and foci of care upon professional boundaries; competing organisational cultures and the impact of service change upon work practices. The findings are explored in relation to ideas about health care delivery associated with neoliberalism.

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