Kristen Wald - RN, Mental Health Case Coordinator

Written by Nicole Keay

PHC’s growing Inner City Youth Mental Health Program (ICYMHP) has been tasked with targeting Vancouver’s estimated 700 street youth who are suffering from mental illness and addiction.  Using outreach based treatment, the Inner City Youth team is using their passion and training to connect and support youth in our community.

Island native, new to Vancouver, Kristen has recently joined the Inner City Youth team as an RN Mental Health Case Coordinator. 

While in nursing school, Kristen had no idea she would be interested in mental health until she reached her fourth year and entered into a long term practicum on an acute psychiatric ward.  What attracted her to mental health over physical health was the uniqueness and resiliency of the patients. 

“With mental health, everyone is so different and how their symptoms present themselves is so very unique for each person.”

In a role that is a lot like street nursing, Kristen is meeting youth in the community, in shelters and coffee shops, to help them not only with their mental health and physical health but also with basic day today needs and goal setting. Many of the youth who come to the program are newly diagnosed with mental health issues so early intervention is key to help accelerate their recovery and prevent deterioration. A lot of her job is to monitor them closely and provide a strong framework for treatment. The youth in the ICY program are also experiencing concurrent disorders which mean addictions as well as mental health issues. Kristen and the team address the addictions piece by providing assessment, treatment, support and referrals using a harm reduction approach.

Another big factor in Kristen’s decision to join the ICYMHP was her attraction to the idea of coming to work with a new program she could help shape and grow.  Having worked with a lot of adults, she is aware of how important an outreach model of care is and how key the early intervention piece is. Each individual youth is unique and their needs and treatment plans need to reflect that in order for her to help them.

Despite all the hardship Kristen sees…“I find it really inspiring that a lot of the youth I meet with have been through the most challenging circumstances but they are still able to meet with us and work on goals, such as wanting to go back to school”.

Because each situation is unique when you are out in the community, situations can catch you off guard. You need to be quick on your feet, make independent decisions and have strong boundaries both personally and professionally.  “Boundaries are important; in acute care settings situations are sometimes more structured, but out on the street you really have to figure out how to find the right balance between boundaries and flexibility”.

Kristen’s advice to new nurses: “The most important thing you can do for your nursing career is to take care of yourself”.

If you are interested in learning more about the Inner City Youth Mental Health Program, visit http://mh.providencehealthcare.org/