The COVID-19 pandemic has had a deleterious impact on mental health across the globe. World Health Organization reports that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased by 25% and calls for increased mental health support globally. Similarly, the mental health needs of Canadians have skyrocketed during the pandemic, compromising the mental health care system that was already stretched.
There has always been a need for health professionals trained in mental health. This need is currently exacerbated due to lack of mental health specialty training at the undergraduate healthcare curriculum in Ontario. Thus, access to highly skilled and specialty trained mental health practitioners continues to be a challenge.
Nurses are the largest group of regulated healthcare professionals in Canada and the US. Mental health nursing is a unique specialty with a specialized set of skills and competencies for patient care. Like many other healthcare professionals, most new and existing nurses receive limited formal mental health training to support a wide range of mental health needs they will encounter in practice. Coupled with the critical shortage of nurses across Canada, there is now an urgent need for a Canada-wide strategy to help existing nurses receive the adequate training needed to deliver high-quality, evidence-informed mental health care. Ontario’s Roadmap to Wellness urges implementing ‘Innovative solutions: filling gaps in care’ as one of its pillars to address the massive demand for equitable and timely access to mental health services across Canada.
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) in partnership with TALENT – a workforce planning and development subsidiary of Ontario Tech University - working collaboratively to create a suite of microcredential courses for nurses, clinical staff, and community providers with the aim to bridge the skills gaps, through rapid cycle training, for nurses who lack specialized training in mental health specialty and who would benefit from the verification of these skills. Professional Practice leads and frontline clinicians from Ontario Shores who are experts in mental health care are working alongside TALENT’s learning design experts to develop a suite of competency-based microcredentials drawing on evidence-informed practices and professional experiences in the mental health field.
So far, Ontario Shores has developed microcredential courses for healthcare workers on (a) Mental Status Assessment focusing on fundamental mental health assessment competencies and skills and (b) Dementia care. These six-week, self-directed, online learning modules will allow the clinicians to build on their theoretical knowledge and be better equipped to promote excellence and best practices in mental health care across a variety of healthcare sectors including long-term care settings. Currently, the courses are in the beta-testing phase and are expected to go live in 2023.
One unique feature of these microcredential courses is the within-course evaluation by learners to ensure continual improvement. Feedback received within the course evaluations along with needs analysis across healthcare organizations across Canada will allow for the development of future courses for other specialties and sub-specialty on mental health topics such as therapeutic communication, trauma-informed care, recovery-oriented care, mental health pharmacology, caring for clients living with concurrent disorders, psychosis, schizophrenia.
These courses are open to all new nursing graduates and existing nursing professionals who have had limited exposure to mental health nursing training in their undergraduate curriculum and wish to upskill their competencies. We are also recruiting experienced staff to help with content development. If you wish to upskill your competencies in mental health specialty, you can register now
This work is one of our many commitments to supporting staff to perform at their highest standards of practice, and in turn, ensuring that our quality of patient care is improved.