July 23, 2020

Mental health nurse says COVID-19 poses unique challenges for patients and healthcare providers

Master of Nursing student Wafa Mustapha MBA’20 stresses importance of nurses staying mentally and physically well to provide care for patients
Wafa Mustapha, RN, MBA’20

Wafa Mustapha, RN, MBA’20 is currently enrolled in the UCalgary MN program and scheduled to graduate in 2021.

I always feel incredibly proud to be a nurse but even more so during this time. At the hospital where I work, we have embodied an “all hands-on deck” approach. We have been planning and preparing so we may provide support wherever it’s most needed…when it’s needed.

As a certified psychiatric and mental health nurse as well as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), I find it very difficult seeing patients admitted to hospital and not being permitted visitors. We adhere to a family-centered model of care however, one of the first policies implemented, after the coronavirus started, was visitor restriction.

My role involves many aspects of patient care planning, assessments, care management, care education and working with the leadership team. We believe in a multi-disciplinary approach to health and mental health; every day is different, even when not in a pandemic.

As a result of COVID-19, I am faced with many challenges. Vulnerable patients who are not permitted visitors often do not understand why their families are not visiting and feel abandoned. There is an increased demand for mental health and addiction support — we know that loneliness, isolation, stress, worry, and anxiety adversely impact mental health.

I struggle to find ways to keep families updated, involved and informed. I now facilitate teleconferences or Facetime calls between patients and their families, conduct family meetings via Zoom or Skype, or just daily phone updates.

I am always asking myself, “I wonder when COVID-19 will be over? What will we wish we had done differently? What can I do each day to overcome barriers and ensure that I am providing my patients the best care possible during this very challenging time?

I am constantly thinking about the long-term implications and consequences of the decisions we are making during this challenging time. COVID-19 has brought many changes and I miss being able to work in person with both patients and colleagues. But I must also look at the positives.

COVID-19 has helped me to see that no profession in the world has the diversity that nursing has. It has helped me see the contributions I want to make to nursing and it has brought me closer to my colleagues in a different way. I check in remotely with coworkers to make sure we are all managing our own self-care and I share mental health resources with our team so that we can stay mentally and physically well enough to continue providing care for our patients.

As nurses, we have trained and prepared to respond to challenging situations and pandemics, but it still seems so surreal.

Wafa Mustapha, RN, MBA’20 is a Certified Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse (Canada), a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and currently a Master of Nursing graduate student at UCalgary Nursing. She works in the Medical Psychiatry Unit at the Peter Lougheed Centre. Her goal is to be an advocate for the vulnerable mental health population.