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Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2007 Aug;16(4):224-9.

Passive patient or engaged expert? Using a Ptolemaic approach to enhance mental health nurse education and practice.

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Salford Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Collaborative Research, The University of Salford, Salford, Greater Manchester, UK.


This discussion paper seeks to explore an approach that metal health nurses can adopt that ensures the patient is at the centre of training and professional development opportunities. Although nurse training and education is shaped by practice and theory, the lived experiences of the patients as an educational resource often become lost in the milieu of 'doing' nursing. We argue that in addition to theoretical knowledge and practice knowledge, there is the need to harness the equally important patient experience knowledge. Drawing upon Ptolemaic concepts, this paper explores the potential tensions for mental health nurses resulting from the imbalance in power when engaging in therapeutic relationships with patients. It is argued that in order for mental health nurses to become more effective, they need to learn how to relinquish some of their power, even where this gives rise to uncomfortable tensions for the nurse. Such tensions result from the centrality afforded to theoretical knowledge and ritualized practice that underpins nursing and the difficulties this may cause for many nurses in accepting the value of patient experience as a primary source of knowledge. The difficulties of adopting this approach point to a need for mental health nurses and nurse educationalists to take a more reflexive approach to their patient encounters and within their encounters with each other.

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