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Forensic Psychiatric Hospital nurse specializes in kindness and compassion

Mandi is a registered psychiatric nurse at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital—and she loves it.
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​If you read that last sentence and were surprised, you're not alone. Stigma, explains Mandi, is one of the greatest challenges she and her colleagues face.

"I wish that people in the public understood that our patients aren't just criminals," she says. "A majority of our patients are patients that maybe fell through service gaps in other areas. Recovery is possible in forensic psychiatry. People's symptoms are treatable."

On a day-to-day basis, Mandi is responsible for providing nursing care to patients in the hospital, where she's worked since 2006. But the role of all employees here extends far beyond that, because patients here have unique vulnerabilities that require extra levels of care and compassion.

"Our patients really have had the worst day of their lives," explains Mandi. "They've lost their jobs, their families, their future employment. Perhaps they've hurt a family member. Maybe they've lost their family. They come in needing the bottom of the pyramid of Maslow's Hierarchy. They need safety. They need belonging. They need compassion. They need that bottom part of the pyramid before we can start working them up towards recovery."


Sometimes that means helping patients get to the point that they can do simple, everyday things out in the real world, such as taking transit and going to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions. Sometimes it means helping them fill out applications for housing and arranging dentist appointments.

For Mandi, this is the unique level of care and compassion that she and her colleagues specialize in providing.

"That's what we're really good at. Getting [new patients] past that first day, and then getting them past that next day. And then getting them past the next week, and then the next month. And sometimes it's after recovery happens that the trauma really unfolds. So then, getting them through that piece. So it's not a quick process, but it's a worthwhile process."

Despite the ups and downs of working in such a challenging environment, Mandi thrives at the hospital.

"Psychiatry is my heart. I love being a nurse. It's the most rewarding thing I get to do every day. I love working with this population. I love taking people who are extremely unwell and traumatized and helping them get better. It's extremely rewarding. There's a lot of secondary gain in helping people nobody has ever helped before, giving them sort of their first positive health-care experience."


What makes it all worthwhile and so rewarding? Mandi credits her coworkers with making every day more enjoyable than the last.

"I love the staff that I work with. I love the teams that we have. We're extremely cohesive. I never feel more proud of myself than when I'm beside my colleagues. They're awesome, without exception. We have large, multi-disciplinary teams. Everybody really bands together. I love the way we work in a crisis. I love the way we work after a crisis. There's a lot of fun here, and a lot of humour to get through the tough days."

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