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Gearóid Brennan

Gearóid Brennan

Musings of a nurse and early-career academic

My Florence project!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been awarded a Florence Nightingale Foundation travel scholarship. This is to allow me to travel to Australia to explore Cardiometabolic nursing roles in mental health services.

I’m undertaking my travel in October 2019. Activities include

  • Presenting my PhD findings at the Australian College of Mental Health Nursing Annual conference
  • Visiting mental health services in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.

My principal host in Australia is Professor Karen Strickland from the University of Canberra. She has helped me plan my trip and put me in touch with academics and clinicians. Karen is originally from Bonny Scotland and is a Florence Nightingale Foundation alumna.


Why Cardiometabolic screening?

People with serious mental illness (SMI) are at an increased risk of physical co-morbidities and premature death. It is estimated that their life expectancy is anywhere between 10 and 20 years less than the rest of the population. They have 2-3 times higher rate of cardiovascular disease and 3.8 times higher rate of HIV infection. One in five will go onto develop diabetes. They are likely to have lower levels of physical activity and poor diet. The contributing factors are multi-factorial and include medication side effects, genetics and socio-economic determinants of health.

Mental health nurses are the largest professional group working in mental health services. Therefore, a lot of research has focused on what role they may play in addressing this health burden. Often it is found that mental health nurses are ambiguous, ambivalent and voice conflicting views on what role they play or should play.

I am currently undertaking PhD studies which focuses on this very issue to ask why nurses are feeling like this and in particular, how does the culture and structure of the organisation influence this. I have completed my data collection (semi-structured qualitative interviews). From initial analysis, nurses interviewed felt that use of specialist nursing roles warranted further consideration in order to improve patient care.


Why Australia?

I’m heading down under for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this issue is faced by health services across the global. A recent position paper by the World Health Organisation has identified that this is an international problem, not just a UK one. Therefore, exploring practice in a different country may be key to better understanding. Secondly, the majority of the research studies in my literature review come from Australia. They seem to be leading the way. They are also trailing such specialist nursing roles and doing their very best to robustly evaluate them

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