Shoal Creek Nurses Supporting ECT Patients

Seton Shoal Creek’s ECT Nursing team (left to right): Cheryl Barzee, RN, Marie Fletcher, BSN, RN, and Carolyn Pena, RN.

Seton Shoal Creek offers electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a treatment for patients with severe and/or treatment-resistant depression. Approximately, 60 patients underwent ECT at Ascension Seton Shoal Creek last quarter.  The Mayo Clinic defines electroconvulsive therapy as “a procedure, done under general anesthesia, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions.”

Most patients who undergo ECT start with three treatments per week with the number of weekly treatments decreasing over time, explains Marie Fletcher, BSN, RN, who joined Shoal Creek in 2017 and has worked full-time on the ECT unit since October 2018. Patients check in with a psychiatrist before each ECT treatment and have the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns.  Despite the one-on-one time with the psychiatrist, patients continue to have a lot of questions throughout the course of their treatments.

Because modern-day ECT is not well-understood, it often carries a stigma. Some patients conceal their treatments from family, friends and colleagues. With the support of Dr. Sam Collier, Clinical Director of ECT and Chris Roesel, LCSW, Behavioral Health Manager, the hospital launched an ECT support group last year. “We created the ECT support group at Shoal Creek because we saw how much it was needed,” said Marie. “We want to provide patients the opportunity to meet with someone who can serve as a resource for questions or concerns about their treatment.”

The support group is designed to serve a mix of participants, including patients who are currently undergoing treatment, individuals considering treatment and former patients who have successfully completed treatment. The support groups currently meet weekly, but will likely shift to twice per month in the future.

Marie leads the group and has been impressed with the results. “The support group is not therapy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be therapeutic,” she said. “Having a safe space for patients to come and talk and process their feelings about what they are experiencing is really powerful. It is also really helpful to patients considering ECT to hear from people who are undergoing or who have successfully completed the treatment.”