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September 2011
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New Mental Health Liaison Enhances Psychiatric Care on Medical Floors

Patients facing serious emotional pain, while being treated primarily for medical reasons at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH), are now receiving an enhanced level of psychiatric care. The Hospital has designated a Mental Health Liaison Nurse Specialist to the medical and specialty inpatient units with the intention to raise the quality of care for these patients, as well as to improve care coordination and patient throughput.

The Mental Health Liaison Nurse Specialist works in conjunction with the Hospital's team of psychiatrists who provide psychiatric consults and mental health recommendations for medical inpatients. The Liaison functions as a complement to the consulting psychiatrist by collaborating with clinicians to integrate mental health interventions with the medical treatment plan.

Joe Novak, PsyD, director of Mental Health Services at NCH, says the new Liaison is concentrating on patients who ultimately will be moved to a psychiatric inpatient unit once cleared by the medical physicians. "We anticipate this new role to evolve over time as we discover additional needs and new opportunities," he says.

To fill the role of Mental Health Liaison Nurse Specialist, Dr. Novak turned to veteran NCH clinician Judy Pasternack, RN. Recognizing Judy's experience in both the medical and psychiatric care settings, Dr. Novak saw her as the right fit for this new position. "As a psychiatric nurse, Judy can enhance the care we provide by offering tips and interventions that the nursing staff can use while the patient is on the medical floor," Dr. Novak says.

Before the addition of Pasternack, Mental Health Liaisons were balancing psychiatric responsibilities between two patient care settings, the Emergency Room (ER) and inpatient units. Now, with a Liaison dedicated to serving Hospital inpatients, psychiatric care coordination such as arranging patient discharges to mental health facilities are being handled more proactively and with greater efficiency.

"We know that patient flow is a major initiative at the Hospital," says Dr. Novak. He points out that the integration of an inpatient-focused Liaison will contribute greatly to improving patient throughput. Anticipating patients' needs and closely monitoring their progress will help to reduce extended occupancies of inpatient medical beds by psychiatric patients who are prepared for the next level of care.

The Mental Health Liaison Nurse Specialist will be on the medical and specialty floors weekdays, while Mental Health Liaisons located in the ER will cover all other hours. As before, NCH psychiatrists are available 24/7, and consults can be ordered through CareLink CPOE and by leaving a consult request on the NCH Psychiatric Consult Line at 847.618.4195.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009