Vanessa McCrea

News, Nursing | 29 days ago

Answering the Call for Those Who Need it Most

For more than three decades, Vanessa McCrea, has cared for people who are facing mental health challenges. Now, as a telemental clinician, she provides instant triage, assessments, supportive listening and referrals for people who are seeking mental health resources and services over the phone at any time of day.

In the middle of the night, when most of Charlotte is sleeping, Vanessa McCrea, is providing immediate, potentially lifesaving care to people who are seeking mental health resources.

Vanessa works the third shift as a telemental clinician for the Atrium Health Behavioral Health Help Line, where licensed professionals like Vanessa answer calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs help. That may include people who are struggling with mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, or people who have substance use disorder or other addictive behaviors. For many, making that first call to someone like Vanessa, can change the course of their lives.

“Far too many people are suffering in silence because of the stigma associated with mental health issues,” Vanessa says. “I wish people were more comfortable with reaching out and utilizing the services available to them.”

Vanessa has been working with behavioral health patients for more than 35 years. For her, becoming a nurse wasn’t a choice she had to make. It was a calling.

“I believe I was called into nursing,” she says. “I don’t remember a time in my life when I wanted to do anything else.”

Inspired by her mother, who was a licensed practical nurse (LPN), Vanessa attended Michigan State University, where she achieved a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She enjoyed her mental health rotation during school and after graduation, she began working at a state mental health facility.

“It was very challenging and rewarding,” Vanessa recalls.

Vanessa never looked back. Over the years, Vanessa has worked in a psychiatric unit, a chemical dependency unit, home health and at a skilled nursing facility – all before joining Atrium Health 23 years ago.

Today, she uses her decades of behavioral health nursing experience to provide medical education, recommend relaxation techniques or mindful meditation and to educate her patients on how medical or physical aspects they may be experiencing can affect them emotionally.

“Mental Health is on a continuum,” she explains. “It is ever changing and encompasses every aspect of our lives.”

Vanessa can also provide assessments or referrals, offer community resources that may be available and help coordinate with other Atrium Health clinicians to provide a patient with continued support. But perhaps most importantly, anyone who calls the Behavioral Health Help Line can be assured that an experienced clinician like Vanessa, will be there to help, no matter the time of day or night.

“The role of a nurse is constantly changing,” Vanessa explains. “The nationwide shortage in nurses that all health care systems are experiencing can be overwhelming, but as nurses, we understand that we are surrounded by challenges every day. My hope is that in some small way, I can make a positive impact in the lives of others.”

At a time where stress, burnout and staffing challenges are impacting all health care workers across the country, Vanessa understands the importance of taking care of her own mental health and values the importance of nurse well-being.

“It’s important for us as clinicians to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally so we can better assist our patients with their mental health needs.”

For Vanessa, that means taking care of herself physically and emotionally, watching comedies and going on cruises with her family – in fact, she’ll achieve “Platinum Level Cruiser” status after her next cruise this summer, which means she’ll have accumulated between 75-199 days of cruising. 

Vanessa’s Advice for New Nurse Graduates

  • Be careful specializing early on in your career.
  • Explore different areas of nursing to make sure you have a good fit.
  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally so you can better assist your patients.