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Nursing adolescents to better mental health

For the past 27 years, Diane has worked as a nurse at the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre (MATC), which provides a range of mental health services to children and adolescents who experience mental health challenges.
For the past 27 years, Diane has worked as a nurse at the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre (MATC), which provides a range of mental health services to children and adolescents who experience mental health challenges.
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Video: Nursing adolescents to better mental health

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, May 8, 2017

While you won't find Diane K. in "scrubs" at a bedside on a hospital ward, she is still very much a nurse working to improve the lives of the people under her care.

For the past 27 years, Diane has worked as a nurse at the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre (MATC), which provides a range of mental health services to children and adolescents who experience mental health challenges.

"I work with MATC's Intensive Community Re-Integration Service (ICRS), which provides services and treatment to children and adolescents on the autistic spectrum or with attention deficits who have been having difficulty in their home or school life," she says.

"I'm a dual-qualified nurse, so I work as both a registered nurse and a registered psychiatric nurse, which tend to be very different roles," Diane adds.

"Working in an interprofessional team is great as it enables us to blend our perspectives to improve outcomes for our clients and their families.

"Generally speaking, the kids we work with are having difficulty functioning in their community schools and that's why they've come to our program. They either weren't attending school, or were in a separate room working with an educational assistant or other support person because they couldn't cope in a regular classroom setting. Many of them have been bullied or never had a friend, for example."

The overall goal of the program, she says, is to return the child to their home and community school better equipped to function in those environments.

"We provide them with skills and coping strategies that help them navigate difficulties in terms of their social interactions with peers, their ability to focus, and their ability to manage anxiety."

Diane typically works with children ages 11-17 for a period of a year to 18 months.

"They participate in a day program where their time is split between a school program and a group program," she says. "The families also attend therapy while their child is in care to help them develop skills to support their child at home."

The results are gratifying, Diane says.

"Success means that the child graduates from our program, returns to a regular classroom, and is able to focus on their work and progress in the school system. They also develop a peer group in the community and have better relationships with their friends and families."

Diane says she was first encouraged to pursue nursing by her mother when she was in her early teens. Then, "a good friend of mine had a 'breakdown' when we were just 16. I didn't fully understand it, so I was on a quest to see how I could help her. That was the spark for working in this field; I really wanted to help teenagers who had similar difficulties. It became a passion."

Decades later, she has no regrets.

"It's a joy working with adolescents," she says. "A lot of our success is relationship-based. Helping them develop their skills and abilities to the point where they believe they can be successful is just so important for these kids. It is a very rewarding place to work."

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