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Keywords:

  • credentialling;
  • mental health;
  • nurses;
  • nursing role;
  • physical health;
  • survey design

Aims and objectives

To identify nurse perceptions on the potential value of general and specific nursing approaches to improving physical health outcomes of people with serious mental illness.

Background

People diagnosed with serious mental illnesses experience heightened rates of physical illnesses and can be supported better via healthcare system prevention and management. Nurses working in mental health are a critical part of a system-wide approach to improving physical health care, but there is little known on their views on specific approaches within Australia (e.g. screening for risks, stigma reduction).

Design

A national, cross-sectional and nonrandom survey study delivered online.

Methods

Members of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (n = 643), representing nurses employed in mental healthcare services across Australia (71·6% from public mental health services). Participants were asked to rate the potential of nine nurse-based strategies for improving physical health (options: ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘not sure’) and the potential value of 10 nursing and general strategies for improving physical health (rating from ‘negative value’ to ‘significant value’).

Results

There was a high endorsement of all nine nurse-based strategies for physical health (e.g. lifestyle programmes, screening, linking services), although there was less support for reducing antipsychotics or advocating for fewer side effects. Participants mainly viewed all strategies as of moderate to significant value, with the most promising value attached to colocation of primary and mental care services, lifestyle programmes and improving primary care services (reduce stigma, train GPs).

Conclusions

Australian nurses working in mental health services view a range of nurse-based strategies for improving physical healthcare services and standards as important.

Relevance to clinical practice

Nurses collectively need to work with consumers, health agencies and the general public to further define how to organise and implement physical health integration strategies, towards more comprehensive health care of people with serious mental illness.