Health Sciences

Cutting-edge research in Mental Health Nursing

The ACU Mental Health Nursing Research team affiliated to NorthWestern Mental Health, the mental health arm of Melbourne Health, is making contributions to a range of mental health issues. Research priorities involve embedding recovery-oriented care into service provision, the reduction in the use of restrictive interventions with consumers of mental health services, and meeting the physical health care needs of mental health consumers. The team is comprised of Dr Brian McKenna, Professor of Mental Health Nursing and Dr Trentham Furness, Research Fellow, working collaboratively with several universities and healthcare providers to deliver its research outcomes.

Current projects have been formed from recent research achievements in grant applications, successful funding and wide networking with mental health nursing academics and stakeholders. With funding from the Victorian Government’s Department of Health and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, the team is working on a literature review and policy analysis on ‘Restrictive interventions in designated mental health services’. The evaluation of the Northern Police, Ambulance, and Clinician Emergency Response (NPACER) team for mental health emergencies in the Northern Hospital Emergency Department is another research focus. In addition, collaborative funding was achieved to evaluate components of the ‘Victorian Reducing Restrictive Interventions Project’ and the Nurses Board of Victoria Legacy Limited on the perceptions of the use of hold and control restraint in Australian Emergency Department.

Other investigations include researching trauma informed care in Victorian Emergency Departments and the effect of education on increasing awareness of past trauma of mental health consumers; the role of Accredited Exercise Physiologists in secure adults inpatient mental health units; the evaluation of the Aboriginal Mental Health Liaison Officer at Northern Health; recovery-oriented care at Community Care Units; and detecting malnutrition among older adults with severe mental illness.

“Our research outputs reflect the commitment of our team’s role to research excellence and to the dissemination and translation of that work to inform policy and practice,” says Professor McKenna, who was jointly appointed Professor of Mental Health Nursing between ACU and NorthWestern Mental Health in 2013.

Proactive community, university and academic engagement has seen the ACU Mental Health Nursing Research team participate as keynote speakers and guest presenters at conferences and forums. Highlights include; the Health Innovation and Reform Council Mental Health Working Party to provide advice to the Minister for Mental Health and; Review Committee Member on the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses 40th International Mental Health Nursing Conference 2014.

ACU’s innovative postgraduate courses in Mental Health was developed with industry and major mental health service stakeholders, driven by the ACU Mental Health Nursing Research team. “What’s distinct about the program,” says Professor McKenna, “is its focus on the new paradigm of recovery, which state policy is embracing and services are embedding into service delivery. It has a complete focus on person centred care to equip the workforce to function within a new context of service transformation of mental health reform that is occurring not only in Victoria but nationally and internationally.” More information on ACU's Mental Health program.

The number of research projects negotiated in response to primarily internal service development will see the ACU Mental Health Research team continuing to add value to enable rigorous evaluation of research in mental health nursing and service innovation.