Words into Action:
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners in Belize
Officials at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) have emphasized the great need that countries in Latin American and the Caribbean have to invest and procure human resources in health. In particular, they have repeatedly underscored the need for expert training and retaining health workers skilled and knowledgeable in mental health. In the Caribbean, countries like Belize have achieved a verifiable record of accomplishments in strengthening capacity, particularly as it relates to mental health. That country Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners training and implementation program is a case in point.
"Mental health plans generally don't require expensive advanced technology; what is needed is a special effort for the training and sustained retraining of human resources, based on the principles that are guiding the direction of our structural actions,", says the Chief of PAHO Regional Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Unit, Dr. Jorge Rodríguez.
According to Dr. Claudina Cayetano, the only psychiatrist in Belize and a major force for mental health development and modernization in the Caribbean country, the introduction of primary mental health care to the health care systems means that mental health services are more accessible and respectful of patient's human rights.
While there is a long way to go to overcome the stigma of mental illnesses, the efforts and dedication of the psychiatric nurse practitioners have helped to stymie the negative outlook toward the mentally ill and the search for support to prevent or manage mental illness, she said. "As a result, Belizeans are now more open to seek help for depression, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders and other mental illnesses."
Human resources are scarce, but nurses do quite a bit. Being a PNP is of great responsibility. It is through our daily contact with patients, clients and their families that we keep on learning. The PNPs in Belize is a very cohesive group. There is a very good communication between all of us. Mental health is a beautiful professional specialty.