Why Mental Health Support Related Staff Need Good Medication Awareness

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Ahmed lives in supported living accommodation because he has a diagnosis of bipolar. He uses a combination of Lithium and Valproate medication which works for him, but he has to constantly monitor his blood to ensure that he has the right balance of the medicine in his body so as to manage any possible side-effects.

Angela his key worker can’t understand what all the fuss about monitoring Ahmed’s medication is about. As far as she is concerned, he must comply with his medication to keep him well and attend his blood checks as required. Ahmed knows that Angela doesn’t really understand his medication and wished that sometimes he could talk with Angela about the challenges he has with medication. That would be very helpful for him.

While this is a fictional situation, it raises a very important question, which is, how much do mental health related support workers know about the medication they administer to people they support? By support workers I am referring to people who work in more secondary care such as care and support workers, health care assistants and community outreach workers. These are usually nonclinical staff. If they are involved in administering medication do they understand the medication they are administering? Most medicines used by people with mental health conditions have some serious side effects, which if not managed properly can lead to a lot of complications. Understanding this is necessary so support can be given to a person taking the medicine to manage any possible side effects appropriately.

If I’m a support related worker involved in administering medication I should:

  • Know the medication I’m administering and its purpose.
  • Understand any possible side effects the medication can cause.
  • Know what the prescribed actions are to manage the side effects.

The advantage of having this kind of knowledge is that:

  • I am more likely to spot the side effects in a person if I see them happening.
  • I have more knowledge to engage in a more effective conversation with a person regarding their medication.
  • I can encourage and support a person better with taking their medication and managing any possible side effects.

Back to Ahmed, if Angela knows just a little more about Lithium and Valproate she will have information that will cause her to encourage Ahmed not to miss his blood checks and also be able to ask him questions regarding how he is feeling after taking the medfication and when necessary contact his doctor.

While support related workers don’t need in depth clinical knowledge, they should have an awareness of the medication that people they work with take, so they can work with them more effectively to manage possible side effects.

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