MAILED: Oct. 19, 2000
In an effort to increase the quality of patient care by using and developing innovative programs, eight mental health nurses from the Lothian Primary Care Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, visited the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the surrounding areas Oct. 2-16.
The nurses' goal was to learn about the Wisconsin and U.S. mental health care system and programs.
"Our purpose is to compare and contrast the practices between the United States and Scotland to find the best learning practices," Arvil Stobbart, a community psychiatric nurse at the Community Rehabilitation Services in Midlothian, Scotland, said while visiting UW-Eau Claire.
Dr. Kathy Anderson, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of family health nursing, said it was an opportunity for mental health nursing professionals to be exposed to other care delivery systems with the goal of providing the best overall care to mental health patients. It also provided an opportunity to learn about the care and nursing education in another culture.
The nurses interacted with UW-Eau Claire nursing faculty and students during their visit. They focused on UW-Eau Claire's educational system in nursing, looked at faculty projects and delivered presentations to the nursing classes. Informal forums that gave faculty members and students the chance to ask questions and to hear the nurses' views of the mental health programs in the United States and Scotland were held Oct. 9 and 10.
The nurses also studied mental health institutions in Eau Claire, Madison and Minneapolis. They looked at hospitals, outpatient facilities, community programs and residential placement facilities. The places the nurses visited included Sacred Heart Hospital, Luther Midelfort Behavioral Health, Eau Claire County Human Services, Mendota State Hospital, Hazelden, the Hennepin County Mental Health unit and the Northwest Juvenile Detention Center.
Several of the nurses thought there were key differences between the United States and Scotland in policies, programs and education. Several of these differences stemmed from the fact that the United States is based on English law and Scotland is based on Roman law.
Tom Seath, a staff nurse in intensive psychiatric care/forensic psychiatry, said he thought there were differences in the support system of nurses between the United States and Scotland. Several of the nurses were surprised that American registered nurses were able to work in a variety of fields trained as generalists where Scottish nurses were trained in one particular area trained as specialists. They also were surprised at the absence of community psychiatric nurses and the very short length of hospital stays.
However, Seath said he was impressed with the professionalism of the facilities and the staffs they visited.
"Everything is very articulate and methodical," Seath said.
Anderson and Sue Robertson, a clinical developmental nurse in Scotland, coordinated this trip. Anderson has been coordinating similar trips for registered nurses and UW-Eau Claire students and faculty to Scotland through UW-Eau Claire's Continuing Education, Nursing since 1988. This was the first time Scottish nurses have visited the United States.
Anderson considered the trip a great success and believes it will help to enhance the quality of future trips for nurses going to Scotland.
"All of the nurses visited their particular area of clinical interest as well as getting an excellent overview of our mental health care and nursing education," Anderson said. "Through our discussions throughout the two weeks it became evident that we could learn a lot about expanding mental health nursing care in the community."
The nurses also thought the trip was worthwhile and provided a great learning experience for everyone involved.
"We have made several contacts in these two weeks," Stobbart said. "We have begun to build personal and professional relationships that will continue long past our visit."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Oct. 19, 2000