Michael Coffey and I have just returned from a four day trip to the Netherlands, an event supported with funding from the Mental Health Research Network Cymru. We were there to share and develop research ideas with the impressive Dr Bauke Koekkoek and colleagues, and to learn about the Dutch mental health system. Bauke, a mental health nurse, is Associate Professor of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health in the Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN) University of Applied Sciences, and is interested (amongst other things) in matching the needs of people with mental health difficulties with services. You can read more about Bauke’s work in his inaugural lecture.
Bauke did a great job organising a full schedule of activities for our three working days away. Well done, Dutch train and bus companies, for delivering Michael and me to our various destinations in timely fashion. We were, though, reminded during our trip that it is the bicycle which remains the vehicle of choice for many Netherlanders.
We had the chance to meet with academics, practitioners and service users during our travels across Utrecht, Arnhem and Nijmegen. Our thanks to everyone who gave their time and who shared their expertise so generously: Dr Arjan Braam; Mark van Veen; the Kompas team at Pro Persona‘s Wolfheze site; Dr Ad Kaasenbrood and his colleagues in the Arnhem Functional Assertive Outreach Team (and particularly Vincent and Riska, who Michael and I spent Tuesday morning with); the Arnhem FACT Team service users who welcomed us into their homes; the HAN Social Psychiatry and Mental Health Nursing research group; and Hein, Rob and Leon who teach at HAN and have interests in developing international links.
The Social Psychiatry and Mental Health Nursing research group, who we met on Tuesday afternoon, are a capable and accomplished team. Their MATCH Project is supported by a significant grant, and Bauke and his collaborators have done exceptionally well in using this as a springboard for further, associated, studies. Examples include PhDs investigating the effectiveness of therapies, and a planned ethnographic examination focusing on discharge (and non-discharge) of people from community care.
It was good to hear people present and discuss their ideas, and in a spirit of collegiality Michael and I had the chance to share our interests and plans. I took the chance to talk about my research in a general sense, using as a prop this set of slides embedded below:
Interesting to learn during our time away was the system of preparing mental health nurses in the Netherlands. Yesterday, for example, we met Rob Keukens who runs HAN’s part-time, 18 month, post-qualification social psychiatric nursing programme. This is the nearest thing to what here, in the UK, we would describe as a post-registration course for community mental health nurses (CMHNs). For those interested, Bauke has described and analysed the Dutch CMHN profession in this paper.
The principal purpose of our trip was to further our research connections, and for Bauke, Michael and me to spend time putting our heads together to develop new research ideas. We know we’ll need to involve others, and target funding streams sympathetic to international research proposals which set out to create new knowledge to improve mental health and well-being and the organisation of mental health services.
More on all this to follow in due course, I am sure.
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