My USF Education: Rewarding and Valuable

Balraj Bajwa, Doctor of Nursing Practice, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner ‘21 and BSN Clinical Instructor. DNP Project Title: “Designing and Implementing a De-Escalation Toolkit to Improve Staff Education and Competency on De-Escalation within a Mental Health Outpatient Setting.”

“My USF education has changed the way I think and approach my work and patients, as well as my life” said Balraj Bajwa, during a conversation to learn more about him and his professional journey.

Balraj knew he wanted to go into the health field after a family member had a heart attack when he was young. At a certain point in his career, he considered becoming a cardiologist, but things were not aligning to continue in that direction. Balraj started his USF nursing education in the ME - MSN program. He acknowledges, not knowing really what he wanted to do then, but surely was not attracted to “bedside nursing.” During his community and mental health clinical rotations, Balraj realized his deep understanding and passion for mental health. Then, working at the Juvenile Hall Health Clinic, Balraj became receptive to experiencing the vulnerability, unpredictability, stigma, and complexities of mental health. He was starting to understand the struggles families face, the reality of young adults’ depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. He was uncovering his purpose and was now ready to continue his education to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and make a difference.

I am now looking at the underlying foundations of the situations and looking for ways to improve people’s mental health. In mental health, it is important to have a DNP and be equipped with the necessary tools to improve outcomes and care.

Currently, Balraj is working as a registered nurse at the Momentum for Health 24-hour 8-bed Crisis Stabilization Unit in San Jose, where low-income patients who are going through a mental health crisis can seek respite. A crisis can be triggered by the lack of shelter, being under the influence of substances, or other matters that can spark anger, depression, anxiety, or aggressive behaviours. For his DNP project, he addressed the need of a De-Escalation Toolkit to improve staff education and competency on de-escalation within a mental health outpatient setting. “There is a wide range of diagnoses, and that’s why de-escalation techniques are so important. The purpose is to provide a safe environment for individuals to receive treatment, avoid psychiatric hospitalization and stabilize symptoms. My project addressed the unpredictability of a mental health facility as there are always people who are aggressive, or violent in nature that come to the facility. The energy you portray is the energy patients will mirror. Sometimes it is hard to remember how to react, and in real life, your adrenaline spurs. Having a reminder of the techniques available can make a significant difference.”

Balraj said: “I encourage all nursing students to keep their eyes open to opportunities within health care. Listen to your purpose and continue your education to make a difference.”