• emergency department;
  • psychiatric patients;
  • pathways of care;
  • participatory action research;
  • nursing;
  • mental health policy

Improving continuity of care across psychiatric and emergency services: combining patient data within a participatory action research framework

Presented with the concerns of emergency department nurses about providing appropriate and co-ordinated care for patients seeking mental health services, a Monash University School of Nursing, Victoria, Australia, research team chose a participatory action research strategy. Jointly executed with staff from the Peninsula Health Care Network, the research process brought together in a number of fora multiple disciplines involved in the care and management of psychiatric patients. The participatory action research process itself was the first step in remedial action. Through it, participants and management gained a firmer view of the issues facing Frankston Hospital Emergency Department staff in dealing with psychiatric patients, and in securing their access to suitable pathways of care. Other research outcomes included: a compilation of summary statistics showing patterns of use by psychiatric patients of Frankston Hospital’s Emergency Department; beginning discussions about pathways of care for these patients; and the development of a screening tool to be used by the triage nurse for at-risk psychiatric patients presenting to the Emergency Department.