‘I don’t want any of my colleagues to be off work because of something that we could have prevented.’
This is the driving ethos for EN Briohny McCann, a Health and Safety Rep (HSR) in The Royal Children’s Hospital mental health inpatient unit, Banksia.
Briohny had always been interested in psychology, so after a career that involved stints in community, acute, alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and rehab nursing, she jumped at the opportunity when the Royal Children’s offered a transition program for general nurses to move into mental health nursing.
Part of the appeal of paediatric mental health, she says, was that she had worked with AOD residential rehabilitation facility Odyssey House, ‘seeing people who are further down the track due to traumatic backgrounds’ so she ‘wanted to get in a bit earlier to help prevent that cycle from continuing to happen’.
Health and safety achievements
Banksia is a 16-bed unit that had been experiencing high reporting rates of occupational violence and aggression (OVA) over the past few years. ‘One of the ongoing challenges,’ Briohny says, ‘was how we trained new registrars and junior doctors who came through. I advocated for better consistency with the admission process and how it could be improved for existing staff, new starters and the young people in our care.’
Briohny and Banksia’s OVA working group recommended specific PRNs be charted for every single admission. It’s a small change – ‘which has taken a lot of discussion and education – but this change has resulted in significant benefits, allowing nurses to administer these medications quickly and reduce the distress our patients may experience.’
It’s even helped on occasion with de-escalation, preventing the need to intervene in the first place, she explains.
‘Another win we’ve had is that we’re getting new front doors for our unit. As an HSR for our ward I always have an eye out for risks. I noticed the challenges my colleagues have with the current doors, which are no longer fit for purpose, so a new door will be a huge safety improvement – not just in terms of security but safety for staff and consumers as well.
‘We’re also getting a door for Alicia – my other HSR. There was no secondary door for her office, so if there was a code black, she gets stuck in there until it’s resolved.’
OVA, manual handling and more
The Banksia OVA working group is only one of several groups and projects that Briohny is involved with. She is a member of a hospital-wide OVA working group, and has recently joined the ANMF (Vic Branch) Royal Commission Working Group, comprising members who inform the Branch’s advocacy and engagement in the mental health reform process.
She has also recently been involved with creating a manual handling program specifically for Banksia. ‘In our ward we have fixed beds, so when it comes to moving things we need to know how to use our bodies safely. With this new program we can make sure we’re all doing it the same way and reduce any injuries.’
In addition to all that, she has been working with ANMF on developing a more appropriate restraint program – one that is trauma-informed in line with the new mental health Act, and which places a far stronger emphasis on de-escalation techniques. ‘That’s something that as nurses we’re not really taught, and I think it’s a fundamental course that people should be doing.’
Banksia’s acting NUM, Whitney Cornell, notes that ‘Since Briohny took over the HSR role we’ve seen a lot of positive changes on Banksia ward. Briohny’s commitment to maintaining safety for all young people and staff goes above and beyond and ensures that this mindset is embedded in the everyday practice at Banksia.’
Outside of work hours, Briohny is undertaking an Advanced Diploma of Nursing (Mental Health), and really enjoying it. ‘It’s good going back to a bit of the old-school knowledge,’ she explains, ‘especially the medical stuff that I’m not doing as much any more. I recommend it for any ENs who are looking at developing their career, because I’m just not in a position now to do my Bachelor.’
How does she have time for it all?! ‘I have a great team, she says. ‘People genuinely want to help, which is so good. I come up with these ideas and people are like: alright, let’s get it happening!’
Part of this desire, she believes, is that her colleagues all genuinely care for each other. ‘It’s a nice feeling to know that people have got your back and you feel quite safe with the people that you’re working with because there’s a lot of trust.’
She’s also lucky, she says, to work for ‘a hospital that is receptive to wanting to keep us safe. Although it feels like sometimes things take time, I get the sense that my work [as an HSR] is appreciated. At the end of the day, it’s a collaborative effort and keeping us safe ultimately also the helps the hospital in the long run.’
But ultimately, ‘the goal at the end of the day is I want my colleagues, my friends, to go home safely and for our consumers to be safe as well.’