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J Adv Nurs. 1997 Nov;26(5):879-90.

Emotional problems in primary care: what is the potential for increasing the role of nurses?

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National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, England.


It has been suggested that the role of primary care and community nurses should be expanded in relation to mental health in order to assist in the prevention and management of prevalent emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, relatively little is known about the mental health work presently undertaken by these nurses. Furthermore, nurses' training needs, attitudes and organizational barriers to role expansion in this area have not been systematically explored. This article seeks to review the literature on nurses' potential and current mental health work, current and future training needs, the views of patients and nurses concerning an expanded nursing role, and organizational issues of relevance. Educational interventions which have been systematically evaluated are also reviewed. The results suggest that nurses are already involved in emotional health care with a variety of patient groups, although this is not always acknowledged as mental health work. While clear potential for an expanded role exists, there is little consensus as to what role would be most effective for each nursing group, and few educational interventions have been demonstrated to be of proven effectiveness.

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