Study explores how client evaluation demonstrated strengths of Urgent Care Program

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Study explores how client evaluation demonstrated strengths of Urgent Care Program

Toronto, March 15, 2019

By Greg Winson

Dr. Yvonne Bergmans
Dr. Yvonne Bergmans

Communication, responsiveness and timeliness were cited as key factors for patients to effectively access mental health supports through the St. Michael’s Urgent Care Program (UCP), according to a study published online by the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing.

This study was made possible by the formation of the Interprofessional Practice Based Research (IPBR) program. The IPBR program gives practicing nurses and health disciplines clinicians the opportunity to bring their perspectives to relevant research questions. The program provides the tools, resources and guidance for frontline clinicians to build evidence to improve their practice.

When the call came out for the then-new IPBR small grants program, Dr. Yvonne Bergmans, a social worker psychotherapist in the UCP and suicide interventionist with the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide and Depression Studies, took the opportunity.

“I was involved in the Urgent Care Program as a psychotherapist and I thought, is this making sense for people?” said Dr. Bergmans, who is the co-lead author of the study. “The only way to figure that out is to ask the clients.”

She brought together three colleagues and put forth a proposal and received a grant from the IPBR to evaluate what patients look for in the UCP.

The study evaluated the program through 13 participants of St. Michael’s UCP, which was created in 2012 as an intermediate level of care between emergency and community settings.

The researchers found the UCP provided timely and ongoing contact and assistance to help patients get the supports they needed.

“Patients got someone who could best meet their particular need at any given time,” said Dr. Bergmans. “They also identified having access to us in case of emergency, being able to call us directly rather than having to go through the Emergency Department or calling a stranger and having to repeat their story as really helpful.”

Participants advocated for increased service hours — particularly for people juggling jobs and health-care appointments — and asked for the availability of a crisis support telephone line through the program.

Access to psychotherapy on a regular basis is an ongoing challenge, as is providing follow-up care once the 12-week term for patients in the UCP ends.

“We get patients from all over,” said Dr. Bergmans. “When we refer patients back to their communities for longer-term follow-up care, it can be challenging to connect them to the supports they need.”

Dr. Bergmans said the findings, which will be published in the March print issue of the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, will be studied further to improve service in the UCP as part of ongoing quality improvement initiatives.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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