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Mayoral minored in music, and today she uses music to provide more innovative patient care. Image courtesy of Penn Nursing.
Mayoral minored in music, and today she uses music to provide more innovative patient care. Image courtesy of Penn Nursing.

RN Iris Mayoral Strives to Break the Stigma of Mental Illness

How a family experience changed the professional course of this School of Penn Nursing graduate.

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Iris Mayoral is the definition of innovation, a value that Penn Nursing embraces. Through her time as an RN in an inpatient Adult Medical/Geriatric Psychiatric Unit at UCLA Health Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, she has implemented different programs, finding new ways to provide the best care to her patients. 

She has also strived to be a resource for people, especially her own Latino community, to understand more about mental illness, with less stigma.

Currently, she is the Chair of the Hospital’s New Knowledge and Innovation Council. Mayoral has led and implemented the Proactive Toileting Program, which prompts staff to help patients use the bathroom with assistance or check for episodes of incontinence, taking the responsibility off of patients to ask for assistance. 

This novel approach in the inpatient psychiatric setting has significantly helped her team provide better care for her patients.

At Penn, Mayoral minored in music, and today she uses music to provide more innovative patient care. “Music has allowed me to better connect with a diverse population of patients in terms of their age, background, and even cognition level,” Mayoral says.

She remembers how she once taught a young, female patient with a general anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, who was obsessively cleaning to switch her focus. Mayoral taught her the melody to “Ode to Joy,” which gave a sense of accomplishment to the patient. 

Her passion for nursing started after she saw first hand the impact nurses could make on their patients. When Mayoral was in high school, a loved one was suddenly diagnosed with a psychiatric illness that required hospitalization in an inpatient psychiatric unit. It was a frightening time for her and her family. However, the nurses made a lasting impression, providing them with important updates, advocating for them, and earning trust from her loved one.

At the time, Mayoral and her family were not acquainted with psychiatric illnesses/diagnoses and were skeptical regarding mental health interventions, like therapy and psychiatric medications. “The nurses, they were the ones who served as change-makers for my family,” Mayoral remembers.

She now strives to fit that role, not only through her innovations but by being a source of information and education. Her goal is to be a resource for people to understand more about mental illness, with less stigma.

“As a Latina and bilingual nurse, I feel passionate about being a resource for families like mine who belong to communities that often still stigmatize mental illnesses—and I strive to make patients and their family members feel heard and empowered so they can live their best lives. I am committed to innovating for better health,” she concludes. 

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