Lately, Nursing Officers have come to be treated as the crucial resource for the hospital. Commensurate with this new capacity, their range of skills has also widened. For example, they are being asked to maximize and optimize available resources at hand. But the level of training and their competence in fulfilling this expanded role is still lagging behind. Among all the skills and qualities that is required of mental health Nursing Officers, only a few are actually evident in practice. In general, Nursing Officers were found up to mark in such competencies as “analysis and judgment, planning and organizing, and monitoring and controlling”; but they were found wanting in such skills as “learning and adapting, multilingual, and information processing” (Lin Li-Min, et. al., 2007). This discrepancy is of grave concern to the industry as a whole. This is an area where strong and motivational leadership can make a difference. In my professional practice as well, I see the aforementioned deficiencies manifest themselves while providing mental patients quality care.
For the modern mental healthcare systems in place, nurses need to gain multiple skills, some of which might have been thought quite removed from nursing per se. The following list of skills has been identified as essential ones to provide quality healthcare for patients diagnosed with psychiatric or psychological disorders:
1. Analysis and judgment skill
2. Creativity (innovation) skill
3. Planning and organizing skill
4. Leadership skill
5. Monitoring and controlling skill
6. Communication and coordination skill
7. Learning and adapting skill
8. Social skill
9. Multilingual skill and
10. Information processing skill (Jones, 2008)
There are some studies that indicate that mental healthcare for the elderly has failed to catch up with advancements in other aspects of healthcare. Given the fact that elderly patients are more susceptible to dementia, senility, and other conditions that worsen with age such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., special training and education need be incorporated into the nursing college curricula to alleviate this deficiency. The reason why clinical leadership in mental healthcare for the elderly is imperative is based on the fact that administrative understanding is as important as core professional competencies such as diagnosis and treatment. The quality of the management team that leads the hospital organization can have a significant impact on the clinical efficiency and innovation. Hence, managerial ability is another key skill that is expected of nursing leadership and the team.
A case in point is the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) that had seen widespread implementation across the country. A core component of the program pertains to mental health of the elderly. Here, more that anywhere else, successful leadership becomes a key factor in patient outcomes. With life expectancy on the rise across the world due to various medical advancements and a stagnant birth rate, the elderly have come to comprise a larger section of the demography. In this scenario treating common geriatric mental conditions, including dementia, delirium, functional decline and senility have assumed greater significance; and special skills are to be acquired to cater to mental conditions that are unique to the group (Bradley et. al, 2006).