The Rewards of Nursing in a Mental Health Program

The Rewards of Nursing in a Mental Health Program

Nursing is one of the most fulfilling and meaningful careers there is—but it can also be exhausting and incredibly challenging. According to the National Academy of Medicine, between one-third and one-half of nurses experience significant symptoms of burnout, affecting their engagement, effectiveness, and well-being. One survey of 800 nurses found that 30 percent of them suffered from depression as a result of burnout.

What makes the difference between a rewarding career as a nurse and one that produces burnout and disengagement? A report drawing on the feedback of 1,900 nurses found three essential factors that supported nurses in being fully engaged and inspired by their work:

  1. Feeling empowered to be active participants in making decisions about their patients’ care
  2. Belonging to a supportive team in which team members respect and rely on each other
  3. Working with leadership that is accessible and responsive.

At Newport Healthcare, we are committed to creating a workplace environment and culture for our nurses—including RNs, LPNs, FNPs, LVNs, APRNs, and PMHNPs—that prioritizes these three factors in both policies and practice. In our residential programs across the country, our nurses are highly valued members of an integrated behavioral healthcare team dedicated to helping teens and young adults heal from trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health and co-occurring disorders.


An Integrated Approach to Care

At Newport Healthcare, medical and clinical experts work together to design patients’ treatment plans and track their goals. “The level of collaboration and coordination across disciplines at Newport enables us as providers to truly deliver comprehensive, holistic care,” says Nurse Practitioner Becca Lee, DNP, MPH, FNP-C. 

For Sarah Arnone, a Nurse Lead in Newport Healthcare’s Southern California program, that collaboration—with, in her words, “the goal of giving the best possible care to each and every client”—is one of the things she loves most about her role. “The lines of communication are open across the board, from nurses and clinicians to residential supervisors and care coordinators to dietitians and program directors,” she says. “Everyone is on board and that is very inspiring. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with such dedicated and amazing, caring people.”

Witnessing and being part of the work of a cohesive team, during both difficult and joyful moments, has directly impacted engagement for Ilieana Alaniz, LVN, who works with teen clients at our Newport Academy campus in Orange County. “I’ve seen that we all play a very important role for Newport, and we are all here for the same reason,” she said. “It has inspired me to become more involved and offer ideas to continue strengthening our team.” 

Caring Relationships That Build Over Time

Young people in residential treatment at Newport are typically with us for three months or more, as longer stays are proven to result in more effective outcomes. That means that nurses have the opportunity to develop connections with patients over time—an experience that is lacking in ERs and most hospital settings. “We are able to build positive relationships with our clients and families and offer positivity and hope every chance we get,” says Ilieana. “I cherish the appreciation parents show us, and their recognition of all that we do for their kids. It’s a daily reminder of why I chose to be a nurse.”

Relationships begin to form the moment a patient arrives. Sonia Torres, LVN, remembers clearly one client whose words still motivate her. “During their admission, they confessed that they felt comfortable with me and that made them feel at home and less scared,” she recalls. “It reminded me that what I do really does help people, from admission to discharge.” Sometimes those connections continue long after discharge—Sarah often hears from past clients who get in touch on their recovery anniversaries to thank her for helping them on their journey. “That really pulls at my heartstrings and reminds me of why I do what I do,” she says. “I love watching clients turn that corner where something clicks and they just seem to get it. It makes me so happy when I see that.”

Longer-term provider-patient relationships also support nurses and nurse practitioners to do their work more effectively, resulting in greater job satisfaction. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, Becca meets with clients individually on a weekly basis, serving as their primary care provider while they are at Newport. “This is truly a unique setting, as I can see clients regularly and more frequently than in traditional primary care settings,” she says. “Instead of worrying about billing insurance companies or sticking to an overloaded daily patient volume, I can actually take the time to get to know each client and support their individual needs. I truly love the time I get to spend with them, as I’m able to learn what’s important to them about their health, and can tailor recommendations based on their needs and resources.”

Instead of worrying about billing insurance companies or sticking to an overloaded daily patient volume, I can actually take the time to get to know each client and support their individual needs.

Becca Lee, Family Nurse Practitioner

An Environment Designed for Connection

Newport Healthcare’s approach to trauma-informed care encompasses every aspect of clients’ experience, including the environment in which treatment takes place. Our programs are housed in beautifully appointed homes with cozy living areas, dedicated spaces for clinical therapy, peaceful gardens, and studios for experiential therapies, including art, yoga, and music therapy. The setting encourages bonding among clients, staff, and care providers. As Sonia explains, “The overall setting in the average hospital is sterile and scary. At Newport, clients feel at home and, as a nurse dedicated to just a few clients, I’m able to be a familiar face.”

“Seeing clients in a home-like environment is very different from the hospital setting,” agrees Monica San Basilio, FNP-C, a Family Nurse Practitioner in Newport’s Northern California program. “Clients are treated like a family, and they get to know and feel comfortable with the staff. There are scheduled outings and multiple other activities. It is extremely satisfying to be part of this type of comprehensive environment designed to support adolescents.”

The staff also benefit from the homey atmosphere. Ilieana says that Newport feels like her second home. “The work environment is very comforting, not only because we are in a residential neighborhood, but because we all know each other and see each other every day. The clients are familiar with us and happy to see us when we come into the house.”

“Getting to be a part of someone’s life in this manner on such a personal level isn’t something you get to do in a hospital or clinic,” Sarah adds. “In a hospital, you see patients come and go. Here, I get to witness clients bloom like flowers or come out of their cocoons. It is truly awe-inspiring.”

Being Part of the Healing Journey

Sonia also uses a flower metaphor to describe what it’s like to observe the progress teens and young adults make during their time at Newport. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing fragile, timid clients grow and witness their inner personalities blossom,” she says. “In a hospital setting, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to build a true rapport with patients. At Newport, I get to witness each client’s journey to healing.”

Upon arrival, clients often have heightened anxiety and emotions as they transition into the residential setting, along with low motivation to address their physical health due to their struggles with their mental health. For Becca, the most rewarding moments are when clients begin to take an active role in managing their health conditions. “They make such enormous transformations that it’s hard to believe they were the same person during our initial meeting,” she says. She recalls one client who epitomized that process—a young woman who was admitted with complex physical and mental health issues and was resistant to change. With each meeting Becca had with her, it became increasingly clear that she knew what she needed to do to improve her physical health, but had little motivation to implement behavior changes. But week after week, the client’s affect gradually brightened, and eventually she began taking an active role in managing her chronic conditions. 

“When she discharged, she not only had a plan for managing her health, but finally had the energy and motivation to do so,” Becca says. “So much of our country’s population struggles to manage their health due to mental health conditions. It’s inspiring to see adolescents and young adults begin to not only understand but also practice positive health behaviors that will improve their health outcomes across their lifespan.”

The “ultimate prize,” says Ilieana, “is seeing our patients come out of treatment with enthusiasm about life. As nurses, we are all here to make a difference in this world, and it is so satisfying to make a positive impact in the lives of our clients and their families.”