Talena Hale - Clinical Nurse Leader, Acute Behavioral Stabilization Unit (ABSU)

Written by Evan Duxbury

How did you get to where you are now?

I’d always wanted to be a nurse but through volunteering with the Red Cross I discovered a passion for working with marginalized individuals. That led me to complete the Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN) program at Douglas College and to apply to St Paul’s Hospital.

I started out in the Psychiatric Assessment and Stabilization Unit (PASU) for 5 years before working as an RPN in the emergency department seclusion rooms. I’m now the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) in the Acute Behavioral Stabilization Unit (ABSU). 

Click here for career opportunities in the ABSU at PHC


What is the ABSU?

The ABSU was created in 2013 in response to the increasingly high numbers of mental health and substance abuse related hospital presentations. As a result, our unit is now uniquely suited to addressing psychological illnesses in conjunction with complex medical issues:

  • ABSU is a secured 9 bed area in the Emergency Department
  • It includes 4 seclusion rooms and 4 medically monitored stretchers.
  • We combine the expertise of emergency nurses and psychiatric nurses in a way that is unlike any other psych. emerg. I’m aware of.

One of the other big differences is that we involve community care staff (including Assertive Community Treatment team, the Assertive Outreach Team and the Acute Home Base Treatment team as much as possible, often bringing physicians and case managers into the unit to provide feedback and recommendations. Because we work so closely with community resources, our patients receive more consistent communication and support throughout their discharge and their return to the community.

What is your role in ABSU?

As the CNL I oversee the department’s day-to-day operations, support staff where I can and liaise with both our community resources and the internal mental health program at SPH.

A lot of my work is identifying and preventing potential problems; we are always thinking about how to keep a volatile patient under control while ensuring we can nurture our more vulnerable patients. The rest of my day is patient care; I’m a bedside nurse at heart so I enjoy it.

What’s the best part of your job?

I work with amazing people and because our team is so multi-disciplined I get work with and learn from all kinds of specialists: social workers, emergency nurses, psychiatric assessment nurses, RPNs, RNs, psychiatrists, addiction specialists and physicians in addition to the experts in our community teams. The knowledge, passion and level of care my teammates deliver is incredible and makes the Emergency Department a very stimulating place to work.

Do you have any tips for somebody just graduating their nursing program?

Remember that patients rarely exist in isolation. He or she is part of a system which includes family and friends. Taking a moment to say to a family member, “your loved one is safe now, you can go and rest,” can relieve a lot of tension from that system.


Click here to see all Mental Health opportunities at Providence Health Care