Mount students aid patients at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center

March 17, 2017

Six Mount Saint Mary College accelerated nursing students recently completed 45 hours of clinical work at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton, N.Y. Left to right: Lisa Viggiani ’16, Chief Nursing Officer at the center; Parminder Bhangoo of Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; Lisa Caldwell Moskowitz of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Theresa Christine Muschett-Diaz of New Windsor, N.Y.; Jill Sussman, associate professor of nursing and course coordinator at the Mount; Brittney Jones of Monroe, N.Y.; Paige Gennarelli of Monroe, N.Y.; and Jadia Mincey of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 


As part of their clinical work, half a dozen accelerated nursing students from Mount Saint Mary College recently cared for patients at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center (MHFPC) in New Hampton, N.Y.

Under the tutelage of Colleen Fleming-Damon, an adjunct nursing instructor who teaches the Mount’s Mental Health Nursing course, the students completed 45 clinical hours each over the course of six weeks.

Forensic nurses provide specialized care for patients who are victims or perpetrators of trauma. The patients being cared for at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center fall into the latter category and can suffer from paranoia, bipolar disorder, depression, and delusional thoughts, among other ailments.

The students provided patients with “therapeutic communication,” explained Lisa Viggiani ’16, Chief Nursing Officer at the center and an adjunct nursing professor at the Mount.

“They were able to initiate a conversation, engage the patients, and terminate the conversation as part of their assignment,” explained Viggiani. “This is not an easy task because some of our patients have difficulty trusting and engaging clinical staff.”

Using the information they gathered from their conversations, the students created personalized nursing care plans. The students also educated the patients regarding their prescribed medication regimen.

“It was a valuable learning experience, which the students confirmed based on their facility evaluations,” said Viggiani. “They felt safe and were confident that they could use their communication skills now that they spoke to this difficult forensic population.”

This is the second year that Mount students have done clinical work at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center. The Mount is currently the only college with nursing students doing clinical work at the MHFPC. Viggiani hopes that the center’s relationship with the Mount will “create a recruitment process,” she said.

Jill Sussman, associate professor of nursing and course coordinator at the Mount, noted that mental health nursing is a core skill for those in the nursing field.

“Every aspect of nursing has a piece of psychiatric nursing, including maternity, orthopedics, cardiac, and ER,” she explained. “Every nurse has to know the fundamentals and basics of psychiatric care.”

Viggiani echoed Sussman’s sentiment: “As a psychiatric nurse for 17 years, I believe utilizing therapeutic communication skills with the mentally ill population is a valuable experience. Becoming comfortable with talking with the mentally ill population prepares students for practicing in any setting. “

Aside from performing very well in both the practical aspects and in classroom work of the course, the students also took away another important lesson, Flemming-Damon revealed.

“We have this idea of what a psychiatric patient is and it’s usually not something that touches our own lives,” she explained. “But it could be anything – breaking up with someone, failing a course – that triggers an issue. And that could happen to any one of us. It’s very important not to take our mental wellness for granted.”

At Mount Saint Mary College, nearly half of first year students aim for health professions. As sophomores, the nursing students don scrubs and stethoscopes and begin their clinical experience in institutions throughout the community.

Working with about 40 hospitals and clinics, the Mount’s nationally accredited four-year nursing degree program boasts a high NCLEX-RN passage rate that consistently exceeds the state average.

For adults 24 and up, the college provides accelerated bachelor’s and normal or accelerated master’s degree programs.