Canberra nurse Bill Bailey has been nominated Mental Health Nurse of the Year by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN).
Established by the ACMHN in 2008, the Mental Health Nurse of the Year award promotes the importance of mental health nursing as a specialty. The award was presented at the International Mental Health Nursing Conference in Brisbane this week.
Bailey has worked in mental health for more than 15 years, specialising in crisis assessment and crisis management. He is placed with the emergency department at The Canberra Hospital within its mental health assessment unit, which Bailey helped found 10 years ago.
“[Mental health crises] are very difficult to resolve in the emergency department environment," Bailey said. "Life and death things become priority. So if you’ve got chest pain, if you’re bleeding, if you’re in labour, those things all come first. And mental health often comes second.”
This means that people with acute mental health crises traditionally end up spending long periods of time within the emergency department, often with next to no privacy. This is what the Canberra emergency department aimed to change 10 years ago.
“They set up a mental health assessment area," Bailey explained. "We at that point could give people privacy, we could take people and spend time with them. We were particularly focused on them. So mental health crises became a priority. It became a significant part of the emergency department. It wasn’t something that tagged onto everybody else.”
The soft-spoken and modest mental health nurse was eager to heap credit onto his colleagues for the positive changes he has seen in the department:
“The message I want to get out […] is about collegiality in mental health nursing," he said. "We’re very dependent on each other. No one succeeds in nursing without massive support from colleagues. And I think this award that I’ve received is probably an award the service should have received.”
But ACMHN president professor Wendy Cross, who nominated Bailey for the award, said Bailey’s own contributions in developing his unit are widely acknowledged by the people around him.
“Bill is a strong and tireless advocate for the improvement of mental healthcare," Cross said. "It was wonderful to receive such a strong letter of support from Bill’s ED colleagues."
When asked what he is most proud of as a mental health nurse, Bailey said he would rather use the word privileged than proud. After fumbling for words for a while, he finally hit upon an answer he was happy with:
“I think getting people out of the service is the thing you’re most proud of. Ah, there’s the answer. What I’m most proud of is supporting people in getting them out of the service, and then never coming back into the service.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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