Service to the Public Teaching activities and resources

Service to the Public Teaching activities and resources



This section provides educators with the knowledge and skills about educating and supporting nurses to be able to work collaboratively with government, organizations, and other public community stakeholders to promote mental illness and addiction advocate for improvements in health services for persons experiencing a mental health condition and/or addiction.


At the end of this section, the educator will enable students to achieve the following:

  • Apply knowledge of the health-care system in order to contribute to the improvement of mental health and addiction services.
  • Recognize the impact of the organizational culture on the provision of mental health care to persons experiencing mental health conditions and addiction, and act to ensure appropriate services are delivered safely.
  • Define the terms: collaborative, inter- and intra-professional, and inter-sectoral practice.
  • Engage in collaborative, inter and intra-professional, and intersectoral practice when providing care for persons with mental health conditions and addiction.

CASN/CFMHN Competencies

5.1, 5.2, 5.3

Service to the public

According to the WHO, “Advocacy is an important means of raising awareness on mental health issues and ensuring that mental health is on the national agenda of governments. Advocacy can lead to improvements in policy, legislation and service development” (WHO, 2003, p. 1). Every nurse has the opportunity—and professional ethical responsibility—to advocate for improvements and advancements in health care for persons with mental health, illness and addiction.

Ensuring future nurses have knowledge of mental health legislation, and the health-care system, is vital to identifying improvements and strengthening mental health and addiction services. However, in order to advocate for change, it is also necessary to understand political and organizational culture, and its impact on the provisions of care. Establishing and maintaining collaborative processes within inter- and intra-professional practice teams, understanding person-centred care and leadership is important when caring for clients with complex mental health and addiction conditions (RNAO, 2006a). For more information, see Resources in this section.

Teaching and Learning Activities

The following are teaching and learning activities that can be employed in the classroom to further support nurses in the integration of theory, principles and best practices related to service to the public.

  • Define the terms: collaborative, inter and intra-professional, and inter-sectoral practice
  • Identify local systems (child welfare, criminal justice system, mental health system, social service, housing programs, methadone clinics, community treatment providers, and addiction treatment centres, police services, mental health courts, diversion services etc.)
  • Reflect on organizational culture through guided discussion
  • Discuss the following:
    • Legal implication of persons with mental disorders charged under the Criminal Code of Canada;
    • The role and responsibility of the Substitute Decision Maker;
    • Collaboration and communication between the person with a mental health condition and addiction condition, their family, the health care system and the nurse; and
    • The role of Mental Health Advocate.
  • Schedule tours of psychiatric facilities, addiction treatment centres, community clinics and local street level centres such as shelters, correctional facilities
  • Mapping local systems such as services, facilities and treatment centres

Learner Engagement Questions

The following are thought-provoking and engaging learner questions that can be used to further discussions with nursing students regarding service to the public. These questions can be used either to stimulate discussion, engage students in critical thinking or be tied to class assignments and reflection exercises.

  • Where are the mental health and addiction services in your city/province?
  • Can you identify a local advocacy group for mental health/illness awareness?
  • How can nurses advocate for persons with mental illness outside of the psychiatric ward?

Evaluation and Self-reflection

The following tools can be used to evaluate students in their understanding and application of service to the public.

  • Guided discussion
  • Presentation (about an advocacy group)



  • Austin & Boyd (Eds) (2015) Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing for Canadian Practice (Third Canadian Edition).
    • Chapter 3: Kent-Wilkinson (2015)The Context of Mental Health Care: Cultural, Socio-economical and Legal.
  • Halter (2014) Varcaroli’s Canadian Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: A Clinical Approach (First Canadian Edition).
    • Chapter 8: Pollard (2014) Ethical Responsibilities and Legal Obligations for psychiatric mental Health Nursing Practice.



  • Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative. (2010). A national interprofessional competency framework
  • Canadian Nurses Association. (2011). Interprofessional collaboration
  • Canadian Nurses Association. (2012). Position statement on mental health services. Ottawa, ON: Author.
  • Ewashen, C., McInnis-Perry, G., & Murphy, N. (2013). Interprofessional collaboration-in-practice: The contested place of ethics. Nursing Ethics, 20(3), 325–335.
  • Faulkner-Gibson, L., & Wong, K. (2015). Mental health promotion with children and adolescents. In W. Austin & M. Boyd (Eds.), Psychiatric & mental health nursing for Canadian practice (3rd ed., Chapter 29, pp. 668–690). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Moore, S. (2015). Mental health promotion with older persons. In W. Austin & M. A. Boyd (Eds.), Psychiatric & mental health nursing for Canadian practice (3rd ed., Chapter 32, pp. 752–764). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Roberts, G., & Grimes, K. (2011). Return on investment: Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Institute for Health Information.
  • Kent-Wilkinson, A., & Sanders, S. L., Mela, M., Peternelj-Taylor, C., Adelugba, O, Luther, G., Woods, P., Olver, M., & Wormith, J. S. (2012). Needs assessment of forensic mental health services and programs for offenders in Saskatchewan. Executive summary. Study conducted by Forensic Interdisciplinary Research: Saskatchewan Team (FIRST Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences and Justice Studies, Saskatoon, SK: University of Saskatchewan.
  • Moore, S. (2015). Mental health promotion with older persons. In W. Austin & M. A. Boyd (Eds.), Psychiatric & mental health nursing for Canadian practice (3rd ed., Chapter 32, pp. 752–764). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Schizophrenia Society of Canada. (2016). Advocacy
  • World Health Organization. (2003). Advocacy for mental health. Geneva: Author.
  • World Health Organization. (2010). Framework for action on inter professional education and collaborative practice
  • World Health Communication Associates (2010). Promoting health: Advocacy guide for health professionals. 
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