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Decision part of profession’s ongoing evolution

The headline on Page A3 of Monday’s Brandon Sun, that the bachelor of science in mental health has been axed, makes it sound as though this is a disastrous event, whereas in fact this particular program has been limping for many years. It must not be confused with the bachelor of science in psychiatric nursing, which is thriving.

This program was started in 1986, not, as incorrectly stated in the article in 1998. It was an interim measure to offer psychiatric nurses trained in one of three institutions in Manitoba where psychiatric nurses were educated (Selkirk, Brandon, or Portage la Prairie or even those educated in other western Canadian provinces) the opportunity to gain a university degree.

It was established alongside a similar program for general registered nurses, who had trained in hospitals, to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing.

There were never a huge number of participants in the BScMH, although those who gained the degree did benefit from it as did their patients and the whole mental health system.

But over the years, participants have declined significantly and there is little need for it, as in fact, the article states. All psychiatric nurses in Manitoba are now educated in the four-year bachelor of science in psychiatric nursing offered at Brandon University, the first university in Canada to offer such a degree. This commenced in 1994.

The termination of this degree is not the disaster the headline suggests, and to say it was axed is not really as dire as it sounds. It simply outlived its value and it was a good decision. Programs come and go at universities all the time.

But it is interesting that psychiatric nursing is in a headline as last year, this year and next year are the 100th anniversaries of the beginning of psychiatric nursing in Western Canada, when Brandon Mental Hospital and Selkirk Mental Hospital both educated and graduated the first “mental nurses” (as they were called) in Western Canada.

This heritage of Brandon being a leader in the field of psychiatric nursing education continues to this day and the discontinued program is just one in the ongoing evolution of this distinct profession.

This is all documented in a recently published book, “Politics Personalities, and Persistence: One Hundred Years of Psychiatric Nursing Education in Manitoba.”

BEVERLEY HICKS, retired assistant professor Brandon University Psychiatric Nursing Program

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