If Leroy Mensah had known a global pandemic was about to unfold, he might have rethought his decision to pursue a graduate degree at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, but now as he prepares to graduate from the Master of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner program (MN-NP), Mensah has set his sights on the future and the impact he hopes to have as an advanced practice nurse in the field of mental health.
Bloomberg Nursing’s MN-NP program, educates registered nurses in advanced practice nursing, allowing these masters prepared health practitioners to be autonomous health care providers supporting the community at large.
“I want to have a bigger impact on the Black population with respect to mental health,” says Mensah, “Becoming an NP gives me that ability to target that population and gives them someone who they can visibly relate to and understand.”
Mensah found his calling in the field of mental health nursing as a novice nurse. He first worked in a mental health unit at Credit Valley Hospital in the GTA’s west end, where he was exposed to a different set of patient needs and a different way of caring for them.
“That experience had a tremendous impact on my nursing practice, and made me want to pursue higher education,” says Mensah.
He has since moved on to Ontario Shores where, as a nurse, he is one of the first health care providers to interact with an incoming patient in triage acting as not only their care provider, but also as an advocate for them.
“Seeing patients at their most vulnerable point and helping them take a step forward in their mental health care journey, is something that fills me with purpose,” says Mensah. “As a Black man I know that mental health is often stigmatized in the Black population. The more I learn and the more I offer that support to patients who come through those doors, the greater impact I will have. I want to help make mental health care is as important as addressing other health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes.”
Completing his graduate education journey was no small feat for Mensah however, he fell behind in his courses, as he and his young family welcomed a new baby right in the middle of the pandemic. Waking up with a newborn at 2am, getting up for clinical practice, and navigating online schooling for his older son as well as himself, made everything much more challenging.
“At one point I considered taking a leave, but my partner encouraged me to keep going. I’m happy to have had her in my corner. I was able to catch up, and now in the end, it has been worth it,” says Mensah.
In addition to his wife’s support, Mensah also acknowledges some other important role models in his life, his parents. Having immigrated to Canada, Mensah says that watching them both work multiple jobs to put food on the table for himself and his sibling, never once complaining, is something that has kept his motivation alive in the face of adversity.
“If they were able to push through tough times, I certainly can as well,” says Mensah.
With his passion for his career, and his drive to help others, Mensah is looking forward to the future as a certified NP at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He encourages his fellow nursing colleagues to take that leap into higher education, because there is never a right time, he says, there is only the here and now.
“A graduate degree will open so many doors for you, challenge yourself and see what else is out there,” says Mensah, “nurses are here to make a difference.”