Jan. 26, 2022

Mental health nurse enjoys building close relationships with patients – a key element of her practice

As a recent graduate herself, Tegen Dunnill Jones, BN’20 hopes to ease stress for the nursing student she mentors
Tegen Dunnill Jones
Tegen Dunnill Jones BN'20

During National Mentoring Month, we are celebrating members of our NurseMentor program who illustrate the values of mentoring. To recognize Bell Let’s Talk Day, we’re highlighting a nursing alumna who practises as a mental health RN, to support the sharing of stories that discuss mental health.

Tegen Dunnill Jones, BN’20 says she fell in love with mental health and addictions nursing when she “realized the profound influence that mental state has on a person's overall wellbeing.”

As an RN with an adolescent detoxification and stabilization program in Calgary, Dunnill Jones tells us more about her decision to pursue mental health nursing and what aspects of her specialty she’d most like nursing students to know and understand.

What drew you to mental health as a specialty?
“I found that to understand a person's experience with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or personality disorders, I needed to build a much closer relationship than was necessary when working with medical or surgical clients. This helped me tailor my care and I found it so satisfying. I love this rapport-building and hope to share that with my mentees!”

Why do you think mentoring is valuable for nursing students?
“I've really enjoyed being a mentor to a current third-year student because I can relate to their worries about clinical, exams, and transitioning from a student to an independently practising nurse. This change is intimidating, so I think there is a benefit to a student speaking to someone currently experiencing it because the information will be relatable and relevant.

“Since graduating in 2020, I've been able to work in inpatient, residential, and community mental health and addictions settings. I've also been able to further my knowledge by completing the Addiction and Mental Health Graduate Certificate through the Faculty of Nursing. I've really enjoyed sharing my experiences with current students and hope to make them aware of all the opportunities out there.”

What advice would you have for students unsure about which nursing specialty to choose?
“My advice for students who are feeling pressured to select their 'type' of nursing is to explore opportunities that are interesting to them. There's no pressure to specialize, because you can absolutely work in multiple settings concurrently. Plus, some of my greatest learning experiences took place in a setting in which I never thought I would work. So, don't discount anything!”

Third-year nursing student Fola Bamigboye tells us how having Dunnill Jones as a mentor has opened the door to meaningful conversations and helped her feel more confident about her future as an RN.

Why did you want to have a mentor as a nursing student?
“I decided I needed a mentor because I was having difficulty deciding on a particular specialty in nursing and I was also quite nervous about the future, graduating and getting a job.”

How has Tegen helped you so far, with decisions about your career and transition to work?
“Tegen has been very helpful. She is very open and was able to share her experiences and how she has been able to navigate the work environment. Tegen was able to clarify information regarding mental health nursing, explained what was and wasn’t true, and because she is also in the field, it was easy for me to relate. She provided details of her day-to-day, which helped my decision. She has also encouraged me to apply for Undergraduate Nursing Employee (UNE) work and even connected me to some employers.”

How has having Tegen as a mentor supported your own mental health or opened the door to more conversations about working in that field?
“Tegen was able to correct my misgivings about mental health nursing, and explained in detail the functions of a mental health nurse and how the nursing skills are used in a different way. Her careful explanations strengthened my resolve to pursue mental health nursing as I was discouraged before due to the stigmatization of the field by other nurses.

“Having Tegen as a mentor has helped my mental health as I am able to look into the future with less worry and more focus.”

NurseMentor, in its fifth year of programming, offers a valuable opportunity for undergraduate students to connect with practicing nurses for support and guidance. There are currently over 200 students and nurses who benefit from the program and we invite more to join.