Simulations in Mental Health

Dealing with mental health issues

Healthcare professionals regularly experience patients with mental health disorders. These interactions are frightening to young professionals, who may assume the patient is unpredictable and violent. However, these interactions are a crucial time to identify and counter mental illness.

According to research published in the International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, scenarios that included simulated participants (SPs) with mental health illnesses were, “valuable in promoting nursing students’ interview and therapeutic communication skills, increasing confidence, and decreasing anxiety.”

Students should be educated to identify mental health illnesses when interviewing and assessing patients. Two important mental health issues are substance abuse and withdrawal, and depression and suicide risk.

Substance abuse and withdrawal

Healthcare professionals have to assess for addiction before administering drugs in emergency rooms. It is vital to prevent worsening a patient’s condition. It’s also crucial to carefully manage an in-patients withdrawal. Students must learn therapeutic communication skills to accurately assess discomfort as well as physical indicators like tremors and vomiting.

Students must learn the reasons for administering supportive medication well enough to explain to other healthcare professionals as well as patients in an agitated state.

Depression and suicide risk

According to American Nurse Today, depression contributes to “more than eight million health care visits each year.”

Patient depression can have an impact on everything a healthcare provider does, so it needs to be determined from the outset of a patient interaction. The goal of coordinating care this way is to keep a patient from harming him/herself or others. From tone of voice to apparel, a provider needs to proceed with caution.

In order to adequately assess a patient’s mental health, the American Nursing Association recommends the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2), a simple screening tool that allows a quick overview. A practitioner asks two questions, and the patient ranks them on a scale from zero to three:

    1. Have you been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?
    2. Have you been feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

Zero means the patient hasn’t experienced those symptoms at all. Rating them one, two, or three mean the patient experiences symptoms several days, more than half of the days, or nearly every day, respectively.

Healthcare professionals are excellent at investigating physical injury, but not all providers consider psychological issues. In the interest of patients and their loved ones, mental health must be considered both by professionals and educators. Learn more about creating simulation scenarios from Human Simulation for Nursing and Health Professions.

Live Person Simulation Scenario
An Evaluation of Mental Health Simulation with Standardized Patients
Simulation-based learning in psychiatry for undergraduates at the University of Zimbabwe medical school

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