Rationale: This study is an exemplar of mixed method evaluation research for development of a clinical pathway.
Aim: To develop and evaluate an evidence-based, feasible mental health screening and referral clinical pathway for Department of Veterans’ Affairs-funded community nursing care of war veterans and war widows in the Australian context.
Methods: Mixed methods were applied to formulate and clinically evaluate an appropriate pathway. The pathway was applied at urban and rural sites for the nursing care of 97 war veteran and war widow clients. Evaluative data were collected from clients, their informal carers, community nurses, and general practitioners. Chart auditing and pre-post measures were undertaken. Collaboration occurred with an interdisciplinary design team.
Results: The final modified six-page pathway includes use of validated screening tools (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale [K10]) and Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test, appropriate referral information, directions for support and health-promoting education, and evidence-based guidelines.
Implications for Practice: The clinical pathway is a useful, tested, evidence-based guide for generalist community nurses to identify and suitably respond to common mental healthcare needs of war veterans and war widows. The pathway provides outcomes acceptable to clients and their carers, nurses and doctors.
Conclusions: This study provides an evaluated clinical pathway for generalist community nurses to screen for mental health difficulties, make appropriate referrals as required and to support war veteran and war widow clients. However, the study also shows how research can be used to develop and evaluate practical, evidence-based clinical pathways.