AMY Wallace’s passion for keeping mental health patients physically healthy has seen her crowned the WA Nurse of the Year for 2017.
A nurse at Graylands Hospital for the past nine years, Ms Wallace took on the inaugural role as clinical nurse specialist for physical health care in 2015.
“My job is to improve the overall physical health of the mental health patients here,” she said.
“I think latest figures show some people live 30 years less because of physical co-morbidities when they have a mental illness, and it shouldn’t be that way.”
Ms Wallace, originally from Victoria, said her job was one of a kind.
“My role is the only one in WA I believe,” she said.
“I am the main resource person for nurses on the ward for patients’ physical health, if there’s anything physically wrong I deal with it.”
Ms Wallace (34) has implemented a number of successful programs at the hospital, including a Wellness Clinic and a sports therapy program for patients in acute secure wards.
“Along with one of the senior OTs, we started the group to implement some structured therapy, as well as pushing the physical health side,” she said.
“We did a 24 week trial and got 118 participants, which was astounding.”
Under Ms Wallace’s leadership, the number of patients requiring prescribed drugs for agitation, distress and aggression dropped, while the number of inpatients referred to a GP for health care has increased from 25 to 180 in the past year.
“We need to view the mental health patient just like the general health patient, and their care is just as important.
“It’s no longer acceptable for a mental health patient to die 30 years younger than the rest of the population from physical co-morbidities that are preventable.”
Ms Wallace also won the Excellence in Registered Nursing Category, before taking home the coveted Nurse of the Year award from a field of 33 finalists.
“I feel very privileged to have won, and I feel now after a long time coming, mental health has been pushed to the forefront,” she said.
“This is a win for every mental health nurse in the state; it’s great to be recognised in our area of work.”
Ms Wallace and other award winners were honoured at the 14th WA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday.