The mental health nurse: A valuable addition to the consultation-liaison team


  • Julie Sharrock, RN, General Nurs.Cert. Crit Care Cert, Psych.Nurs  Cert, B.Ed., M HSc (Psych.Nurs).

  • Margaret Grigg, RN, RPN, BA, M Bioethics, MSc, PhD.

  • Brenda Happell, RN, RPN, BA (Hons), Dip Ed, B Ed, M Ed, PhD.

  • Barbara Keeble-Devlin, RN, Dip App Sci (Advanced Psychiatric  Nursing), Ba App Sci (Advanced Nursing), Master Ed St.

  • Shirley Jennings, RN, RPN, Dip Nsg Ed, B Ed, MMgmt.

Julie Sharrock, St Vincent's Mental Health Service, PO Box 2900, Fitzroy, Vic. 3065, Australia. Email:


ABSTRACT:  Nurses, particularly those working in non-psychiatric settings, report that they do not feel adequately prepared to meet the mental health needs of patients. The psychiatric consultation-liaison nursing role has arisen in part, as a response to these difficulties and aims to facilitate access to mental health nursing expertise for general hospital patients and staff. The impact of the introduction of a nursing position into an established consultation-liaison psychiatry service was evaluated using an activity audit, a staff attitude survey, and staff focus groups. The findings demonstrated that the addition of the nursing role to the consultation-liaison psychiatry service improved access of general hospital patients to specialist mental health care. It also provided valued expert assistance to staff in the provision of care to this patient group, particularly those with complex problems and significant psychiatric comorbidity. The study found that the nursing consultation was particularly helpful because of its focus on practical and care-orientated interventions. The model of practice that evolved out of this project is described and the findings support the use of both direct and indirect patient interventions as important psychiatric consultation-liaison nurse activities.