Two mental health nurses are launching one of Australia’s first mental health home care agencies in Victoria.
Deborah Penglase, who has worked in mental health nursing for more than 25 years, and her colleague Julie Campbell, opened the first specialist mental health nursing agency - Mental Health Staffing Specialists - in 1992, which has since grown to include more than 300 agency nurses.
Now the duo have launched their mental health home care service providing in-home care to clients and their families, and are planning to launch an aged care home service later this year.
Deborah said with the move towards people being treated at home instead of in hospital, the home care service provided more substantial support than most outreach or visiting nurse services, and ranged from someone visiting to assisting with shopping and cleaning, all the way through to 24-hour specialist staff care.
“The service covers the gap that currently exists in the market and provides those affected by mental health and their families with a real alternative to hospital care,” she said.
Deborah first started as a mental health nurse working at Plenty Hospital, which joined a range of major institutions closing down in the 1990s as part of the deinstitutionalisation of mental health.
A teacher at La Trobe University, where she taught mental health students before mental health was studied as a separate degree, Deborah has also worked as a nurse and clinical educator across numerous Victorian private and public hospitals, and worked in the corporate sector managing general and mental health staffing organisations across Victoria and New South Wales.
Deborah said running a labour hire business was about more than getting staff into jobs.
“Our philosophy has always been getting the right staff for the job,” she said.
“We love that we are able to help the clients every day with staff who have been trained to do the job and are seen as a valued member of the team, not just the ‘gap filling agency nurse’.”
Deborah said the agency also provided an alternative to mental health nurses disgruntled with working in the public sector.
“We are a viable option to those nurses who want to take control of their working lives and experience a number of different work environments including home and community care,” she said.
“Many nurses working in full-time roles tell us they are working under extreme pressure due to inadequate staffing; many having
to work excessive hours and unattractive rosters.
“At times they are also faced with working with staff who have no specialist training in mental health, as the undergraduate education for nurses today does not properly prepare nurses for working in this high demand area.”
Deborah said the agency enabled nurses to “pick and choose where and when they work” and provided an opportunity to work alongside specialists who are all trained in mental health.
“I think we have made a difference to nurses and clients when it comes to how an agency is viewed,” she said.
“We have great compassion for those people in our community who may find themselves in a position of not being able to cope at home.”