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2017, June 11th, London South Bank University, Keyworth Lecture Theatre

SKELLERN LECTURE, Professor Mary Chambers -  Making the Invisible Skills of Mental Health Nurses Visible

Introduced by Cheryl Forchuk


Lecture Synopsis: Therapeutic engagement (TE) has long been considered fundamental to quality mental health nursing however, difficulty is evident when attempting to measure what takes place in the interactional-space between registered mental health nurses (RMHNs) and service users (SUs). Arguments exist for and against attempting to measure what can be sensitive and intimate personal interactions. In accordance with Thorndike (1926), “If anything exists, it exists in some amount; if it exists in some amount, it can be measured” (p.38). The alternative view is attributed to Einstein, “…that not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”.

The current political climate emphasises quality care and clinical outcomes, and questions the value of nursing and the nature of mental health nurse education. Notwithstanding the debate surrounding the measurement of RMHN-SU interactions, it is imperative to have a mental health nursing metric. This metric can be used to demonstrate the value of mental health nursing as a profession and its nursing interactions as a major contributor to SU recovery.

Rating scales measuring TE do exist, e.g. Scale to Assess Therapeutic Relationships (STAR) and Helping Alliance Scale (HAS), but none assess TE in acute care settings i.e. the general therapeutic environment AND 1:1 interaction between SUs and RMHNs. None have been developed in partnership with SUs or determine the impact of TE on the quality of SU experience/recovery (as perceived by them) and registered RMHNs as distinct from other professionals. This demonstrated the need for an easy to use, psychometrically sound tool to address these gaps. If nothing is done to capture the contribution and value of mental health nursing to quality care and its importance in enhancing SU experience and recovery, we run the risk of doing a disservice to both the profession and SUs. Consequently, the Therapeutic Engagement Questionnaire (TEQ) was co-developed and validated with SUs and RMHNs using psychometric theory. This lecture will explore the political and professional imperatives and surrounding debate for developing and utilising a psychometrically sound tool producing a mental health nursing metric. The development methodology and authentication process will be described with supporting data together with how it is being adopted in research and practice locally, nationally and internationally.


Introduced by Tony Butterworth

Len Bowers has clinical experience and management of patients requiring intensive care in the hospital and community. Len published his doctoral thesis under the title The Social Nature of Mental Illness and a second book on positive attitudes in people with personality disorders.  He became Professor at the City University (London), launching a research program on inpatient care and methods to reduce conflict and went on to be Professor of Nursing at the Institute of Psychiatry. 

Len has obtained more than £4M in research grants and has more than a hundred publications. Internationally renowned, Len has travelled widely, regularly lecturing abroad.  A recent feature article by Colin Parish in Mental Health Practice:  “Few nurses can have had more of an impact on acute mental health nursing care than Len Bowers, who has retired from his post as professor of psychiatric nursing at the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. Professor Bowers developed the Safewards approach which has been adopted widely in the UK and around the world.

Alan Simpson Len Bowers_edited.jpg


Skellern: Mary Chambers, Mick Mckeown, Elliot Iris

JPMHN Lifetime Award: Len Bowers, Baroness Mary Watkins

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