Melissa (name changed for privacy), who was battling both physical and mental health challenges, had hit a breaking point. While receiving stabilizing inpatient treatment at The Menninger Clinic, she learned from her doctor that she needed yet another test to help address her physical issues. In Melissa’s vulnerable mental state, the news was too much, triggering an outburst of rage, frustration and tears.
Witnessing Melissa’s distress, nurse Meagan Haskett, RN, rushed to her side, successfully calming Melissa and restoring peace to the inpatient unit. “I told her, ‘I understand you're upset, but we need to work together to calm down,’” Meagan remembers. “Eventually, she agreed to get the exam done.”
Meagan credits her adept handling of the event to Menninger’s psychiatric nurse residency program, which offers new nurses an intensive, three-month training experience. Now, as a full-time member of The Clinic’s nursing staff, she is ready to care for patients with complex mental illness.
“I don't think I would feel as competent as I do without the support I received as a nurse resident," Meagan says.
Training nurses like Meagan is critical to addressing the expected shortfall of skilled psychiatric nurses by 2025. Our commitment to the practice of psychiatric nursing helps fill this gap and transforms the lives of thousands of patients each year. Nurses, as frontline caregivers, play a vital role in supporting patients’ physical and mental wellness.
"Nurses at Menninger are liaisons for the patient and advocate for them throughout their treatment,” says Chief Nursing Officer Christi Peters, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC. She explains that this collaborative approach ensures patients feel supported not only throughout their hospital stay, but also during their reintegration into daily life.
The psychiatric nurse residency program trains nurses with a Bachelor of Science in nursing. Upon completion of the residency, nurses are eligible for positions on inpatient units. The program's strength lies in its robust support system, involving rigorous hands-on training as well as coaching from experienced psychiatric nurse preceptors. “It was kind of a ‘it takes a village’ situation where the staff nurses were all hands in and helping us learn,” says Meagan.
The residency’s learning-by-doing approach paid off when Meagan successfully coordinated a patient transfer to another unit on her own, a crucial aspect of mental health nursing. “They prepared us well,” she says. “When I brought the patient over to the other unit, the nurse that I did the transfer with didn’t even realize I was a nurse resident.”
As part of the training, Meagan and her fellow nurse residents also completed a research project that revealed the therapeutic benefits of taking outdoor walks with patients. This insight led to a practice where nurses check in with patients during walks outside, promoting a refreshed return to the unit.
In June 2023, Meagan transitioned to a full-time role with Menninger’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Assessment Service (CPAS). She says her residency experience helped prime her for leadership on the unit. Without the confidence boost training gave her, she admits, “I wouldn't step up and say, ‘OK, I got this,’ like I do now. I can run the shift and get things done however it’s needed.”