May 28, 2018

Student gets insight into role of mental health nurses

NurseMentor supports undergraduate students while also reminding alumni mentors about the challenges faced by novice nurses
NurseMentor Noor and Katherine
NurseMentor Noor and Katherine

Shortly after meeting, mentee Noor Bhatti (Term 6) shared with mentor Katherine Polsky (BN’12) her apprehension around mental health nursing.  Fortunately, Katherine, who had previously worked in psych emerge at the South Health Campus, had lots of experience and insight to share with Noor.  As the two met for their monthly coffee, Katherine (pictured right) explained the procedures, screening tools and communication techniques used in psych emerge. 

This is a great example of one of the ways NurseMentor can work to support undergraduate students while also reminding alumni mentors about the challenges faced by novice nurses.

To help Noor (pictured left) feel more comfortable with the role of a mental health nurse, Katherine arranged for a shadow shift in psych emerge at Peter Lougheed Centre. In this setting, Noor was able to see all of the knowledge Katherine shared in action.

“I really like psych emerge,” says Noor as she recounts the experience. The patient population was less dramatic than she prepared for, but each case was unique with different layers of complexity. The nurses demonstrated careful communication techniques to assess and care for the patients.  In the case of one teenage boy who arrived in emerge after a suicide attempt, Noor observed the nurse interview the patient to make sure he was safe to go home and that he was aware of the appropriate community resources. 

This experience gave Noor greater confidence and comfort as she started her mental health placement the following term.

Everything she had learned was starting to come together. Since nurses can encounter patients with mental health challenges in any setting, Noor sees this experience as very beneficial.  

While listening to Noor’s experiences, Katherine was reminded of her own challenging transition from student to registered nurse. Reflecting that “it is okay to not know things,” has caused Katherine to change her approach when it comes to student nurses on her unit. The positive support Katherine has shown to Noor will undoubtedly benefit the many other new nurses who have the opportunity to work with Katherine in her current position at the Strathmore Hospital.

For Katherine and Noor, it’s that clear curiosity and an open mind can provide the right foundation to form a mutually beneficial mentor/mentee relationship. Openly sharing real life experiences turned into applicable lessons for each of them and can do the same for others. 

UCalgary Nursing’s online mentoring program connecting alumni RNs with student nurses for professional and personal growth. To find out more, visit