Cascadia prides itself on having some of the best (and nicest) nurses in healthcare. These are individuals who have dedicated themselves to serving those in the community living under the most challenging circumstances that are exacerbated by symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse. One such nurse, Margaret Ngai, offered up a little about herself to inspire and inform others who may want to consider joining the behavioral healthcare field.

Ms. Ngai, a Portland native, started working with Cascadia this year and is very active in the nursing profession including an appointment with an American Nurses Association task force for the revision of the Code of Ethics for Nurses, a member of the Board of Directors for the Oregon Center for Nursing, and as a new nursing graduate advisor for the Oregon Nurses Association bylaws committee. She took a moment to share more about herself.

What got you interested in working with individuals who have a mental illness?

I have found (and I am sure it is no surprise to anyone working in mental health) that people experiencing mental illness often receive suboptimal care from the overall healthcare system. Physical complaints aren’t taken seriously, treatment is hard to get, and stigma gets in the way of meaningful interactions with healthcare providers. I believe that everyone, regardless of mental health status, deserves high quality care, and I aspire to provide good direct care to our clients, and to be a voice for them in the health system.

What gets you excited about being a nurse every morning when you wake up

Nurses have the privilege of working with people experiencing their most vulnerable moments of life. A nurse can make a tremendous difference in how those vulnerable moments are shaped by an individual or their families—I’m sure many can tell stories about the bad nurse who made the hospital stay worse, or the great nurse who listened and was available when needed. I love the intersection of science, working with people, and flexibility of professional roles that nursing has to offer.

You are very involved with Nursing as a profession. What do you bring to these roles and what is the source of your passion for this involvement

I grew up in an environment that embraced involvement in professional associations. My mother has been the executive director for various associations targeting women lawyers and I was able to witness first hand the importance of getting involved, and some of the behind the scenes work that goes along with running a successful professional association. Nurses are voted year after year as “the most trusted profession” but you don’t see a lot of nurses in boardrooms, making big healthcare decisions; I think that should change. I am passionate about advocacy for our clients in community mental health, and I’m also passionate about advocacy for the nursing profession as a whole.

What do you like best about Cascadia?

One thing that really resonates with me is that we at Cascadia really are the “safety net”. There aren’t many other places where our clients can get their needs met; we can all be proud of how we are making a tangible, lasting difference in peoples’ lives.

Talk about your work on the Code of Ethics for Nurses.

The Code of Ethics for Nurses is a document designed to guide nurses in their practice in a way that promotes quality nursing care and the ethical obligations of the profession. Periodically the document is reviewed to determine whether the Code remains up to date and relevant with current nursing practice. It was recently determined that there are some areas in the document that could use updating. I will be working with nurse ethicists and other experts from a variety of practice areas around the country, and we will put forth a new version of the Code to be adopted. In the steering committee I hope to be a voice for staff nurses, early career professionals, and of course, community mental health.

What do you enjoy doing in your personal time?

I enjoy spending time with my toddler son, experiencing vocal and instrumental performance, learning foreign languages, experimenting with gluten free cooking, traveling (anywhere) and naps!

Thanks for sharing Margaret. We wish you and your colleagues many successful years in behavioral healthcare.