Chelsea Wehman knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was 15 years old. “My first experience with anatomy class in high school made me understand how much I loved everything about the human body,” she said. “I decided at that point to be a nurse.”

Following nursing school in North Dakota at Jamestown College (now the University of Jamestown) Wehman worked in North Dakota for a while before moving back to the Twin Cities (she grew up in Shakopee, MN). She spent seven years with Hennepin County’s Mobile Crisis Team, then joined the U of M last November.

Chelsea Wehman, RN

Partners with providers
Wehman (pictured at left) works in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ Riverside Clinic as an RN Care Coordinator. “We partner with a handful of providers, working alongside them to triage patients over the phone, help them stay on top of their medications, and take calls from those who are having side effects or symptoms,” she said. “We’re the middlemen between the patient and the provider.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Wehman’s work. “It’s a lot busier because all of our providers are working from home,” she explained. “I’m still in the clinic completing paperwork that needs to be done.” Wehman noted that clinic staff have been figuring things out as they go – with guidance from Minnesota, the U of M and M Health Fairview.

Loves her work
Wehman loves being a mental health nurse. “There is something very personal about our work,” she said. “When you see a patient going through something, you realize that you are only one step away from being in the same situation.”

Mental health nursing can be challenging. “We have some providers with more than 500 patients and when they’re all calling on the same day because they need something or don’t feel well or something got lost in translation, it can be overwhelming,” she said. “You want to be able to address everything before the end of your shift but sometimes you just have to say, ‘I did what I could.’” 

One of the qualities that Wehman believes serves her well as a mental health nurse is the ability to let go. “I love working with people and want to help in any way I can, but I’m aware of my own limitations and at the end of the day, I have to let things go,” she said. “If you don’t, you can burn out.”

Give it a try
For those who might be considering a career as a mental health nurse, Wehman said she can’t imagine doing anything else. “I encourage nursing students or nurses ready for a change to give it a try,” she said. “It can open several doors and is a huge learning opportunity because everyone’s mental health is different.”

From a broader perspective, Wehman noted that it’s important for people to be mindful of their own mental health. “People who are seeing psychiatrists or counselors are no different than you or me,” she said. “It doesn’t make you weak to seek help with your mental health. In fact, it’s really important that you do.”