Parity of esteem: what we have learnt from working with the ‘other side’
We have both spent most of our working lives providing mental health care in one form or another. Although there are differences in our experiences—in age, sector, specialty and need—we have found commonality in many things. These diverse and varied perspectives have and continue to enrich our practice as registered mental health nurses. We challenge one another and agitate in the ‘ecology’ of our organisations, and wider healthcare systems. We fly the flag for equity of access, treatment and outcome for people with mental health needs.
Most recently, we have both found ourselves taking up mental health nursing roles in large acute hospitals. Whether with oversight of the strategic development of an organisation, or a focus on the complexity of mental health and wellbeing in long-term conditions, for both of us, things have never felt so ‘other side’.
Past experiences of transferring patients between hospital sites for admissions, observations and investigations continually raised the questions do acute hospitals understand mental health? Or worse, do they even care? Are our patients, who are equally as deserving of treatment as the physically ill, getting a ‘raw deal’? Conceivably, these questions and experiences only further reinforced a counterproductive ‘them and us’ dynamic—rooted in the professional silos in which we train and practice.
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