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Br J Gen Pract. Jul 1998; 48(432): 1383–1386.
PMCID: PMC1313129

'They think they can talk to nurses': practice nurses' views of their roles in caring for mental health problems.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Primary care teams have been encouraged to develop the care they provide to patients with mental health problems, and a greater role for practice nurses has been advocated. However, little is known about practice nurses' current level of involvement or their perceived strengths and limitations in caring for patients' mental health problems. AIM: To describe practice nurses' current experiences of caring for patients with mental health problems and to explore their perceptions about enlarging this role. METHOD: Pilot interviews were carried out with a purposeful sample of practice nurses to design a postal questionnaire, which was then sent to 635 practice nurses identified from family health services authority lists in six health authorities in the north-east of England. RESULTS: Completed questionnaires were returned by 445 (70%) practice nurses. Most nurses (83%) reported that they commonly saw patients with a range of mental health problems arising indirectly or directly in consultations. Many practice nurses (52%) lacked any formal mental health training and identified a broad range of training needs. A majority (80%) of responders had concerns about their abilities to address mental health problems effectively, given their existing workloads. However, most (61%) were keen to expand their role in mental health care if appropriate support and training were forthcoming. CONCLUSION: There is considerable potential for practice nurses to realize a greater and more effective role in the care of mental health problems in primary care. Developing practice nurses' contribution will require further training and support.

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Selected References

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