Strengthening the competencies and skills of nurses in mental health: Experiences from Bosnia and Herzegovina

Author(s) Selma Kukic1, Zvjezdana Stjepanovic2.
Affiliation(s) Mental health, Mental health Project in BH, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mental Health, Mental Health Project in BH, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Country - ies of focus Bosnia and Herzegovina
Relevant to the conference tracks Health Workforce
Summary The mental health reform in BiH was launched in 1996 focusing on community-based care and so far has made significant progress in the development of a large network of community mental health centers. In the centers multidisciplinary teams operate, however nurses are the largest and least skilled professional category of professionals and have the highest fluctuation rate within health system. The reform project in BiH (Mental Health Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina) is focused on the informal education of nursing staff with the objective of professional development, empowering and providing networking as a first steps toward a systematic re-profiling of nurses in mental health.
What challenges does your project address and why is it of importance? In 2008/09 the survey "Situation analysis and assessment of community-based mental health services in Bosnia-Herzegovina“ (Mental Health in SEE Project 2009) was undertaken. The findings of the 2008/09 survey were used as the baseline for the Mental Health Project in BiH to monitor changes and improvements made with the project's support. A self-assessment of the middle-level nursing staff in this survey revealed that the staff believed they were under-trained. 46% of nurses believed they had not received enough training to work in a mental health centre, and the MHC team members believed that the work of the nursing staff was not recognised by other health professionals and that there were prejudices caused by vaguely defined job descriptions for the nursing staff working in a MHC team. A new concept of nursing, as well as the empowerment of nurses within the system of community mental health, requires well trained nurses, whose knowledge is closely linked to psychological, sociological, philosophical, educational, medical and expert training. This would improve the ability of nurses to assume new tasks. This can be achieved through formal education, non-formal education, continuing professional education, as well as initiative and creativity in the field of nursing.
How have you addressed these challenges? Do you see a solution? The adequate re-profiling of nurses in mental health is optimally achieved through formal education. This project presented informal education as the first step to a systematic aproach. Education has garnered excellent results in terms of narrowing the gap of professional training, but the benefits of education are more reflected in the development of contacts, exchange of experiences and formal networking of these professional groups that did not previously exist in the form of professional associations. The results indicate that associated advocacy for the development of nursing legislation on education and employment in mental health is required.
How do you know whether you have made a difference? The results of the performance evaluation of the Conducted Educations suggested key improvements in the work of this professional group. 96 % of respondents felt that the education contributed to providing quality services to patients and their families through individual or team work. Particular emphasis was upon the acquisition and use of new knowledge, skills and techniques in work (88%), the rights and obligations of medical professionals and patients (66%) and combating the stigma of mentally ill patients in society (32%). 90 % of respondents observed changes in the area of respect for the professional attitudes of mental health nurses by other team members. Particular emphasis was on the experience exchanges among colleagues (65%), the level of self- confidence in the process of presenting opinions to their superiors (64%) and an additional level of competence to work within a multidisciplinary team (53%). With continous collaboration with mental health staff in MHCs there is greater viability for the initiatives taken by nurses to process their difficulties in work.
Have you or the project mobilized others and if so, who, why and how? The key project holders and implementers were the Ministries of Health, and their key responsibility was to make the entire process a success by ensuring the participation of nursing stuff and relevant experts and key stakeholders in the implementation of activities, as well as to provide further support to the continuing education of nursing staff.
When your donor funding runs out how will your idea continue to live? Sustainability is ensured through cooperation with other projects whose main goal is to work on legislation that would provide a legal framework for the employment of nurses in mental health, including formal education, by providing needed information and support.

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