Nevada State College conducts mental health training for Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Crisis Intervention Team

By Mandi Enger

With a common goal to educate police officers on how to best interact with the mentally ill population in Southern Nevada, the Nevada State College (NSC) School of Nursing presented Hearing Voices, a schizophrenia simulation, for Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Crisis Intervention Team members on July 18-19, 2012.

The 90-minute simulation is designed for healthcare providers and public safety officers to increase awareness of the symptoms of schizophrenia and identify ways to enlist cooperation from people with schizophrenia. A total of 40 officers participated in the simulation during sessions held at the LVMPD headquarters.

Conducted by Amy J. Chaffin, an associate professor of nursing at NSC, and Candice Desrosiers, a NSC alumna and geropsychiatric nurse at Southern Hills Hospital, the hands-on presentation included an overview of the illness followed by the rotation of participants through six stations. Each station required participants to attempt a simple task such as counting change or completing a registration form while listening through headphones to recordings simulating auditory hallucinations.

The purpose of the simulation is to place the participant in the shoes of a mentally ill patient in order for them to truly develop an understanding of the difficulty these individuals have when trying to focus, listen to directions, or complete the most simple tasks, said Chaffin.

The simulations at the LVMPD closed with a debriefing and reflection session. It was difficult just to read the instructions at each station while the voices were so loud and active, commented one participant during the July 18 session.

View additional feedback from LVMPD participants on 8 News Now.

Following comments from the officers, Chaffin and Desrosiers encouraged the group to take their experience into the field. When encountering individuals who may suffer from a mental illness, maintain eye contact, give short and clear directions, said Chaffin. Ask assessment questions. Find out if they are hearing voices and what the voices are telling them to do.

You d be amazed how a little extra patience and understanding goes a long way when working with the mentally ill, added Desrosiers.

The School of Nursing has additionally partnered with the City of Henderson Police Department, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, Boulder City Hospital Partial Hospitalization Program, social workers, College of Southern Nevada campus security, and several local schools of Nursing to share the "Hearing Voices" simulation. Follow-up interviews are being scheduled by the School of Nursing team with volunteer participants to measure the lasting impact of the training.

We re proud to share this experience with Metro and other community groups as they develop trainings and procedures for officers and staff responding to and assisting the mentally ill, said Chaffin. NSC nursing students participate in the simulation as part of their academic program, and the experience truly affects the amount of time, patience and empathy they have when caring for patients at the psychiatric hospital. The training has been a part of the School of Nursing curriculum since 2009.

Chaffin is currently working on a National League for Nursing grant that would continue to support the simulation and provide funding for updated training materials.

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