After more than 14 years working as a registered psychiatric nurse in western Manitoba, Kaylan Trott remembers the excitement – and the anxiety – of being a new nurse like it was yesterday.

“Making the move from life as a student to that of a working nurse can be both exciting and nerve-wracking,” said Trott, Client Care Coordinator for Brandon’s Adult Acute Psychiatric Unit. “While our training prepares us well for the many activities of patient care, things like taking blood pressure, dispensing medications, and other daily tasks that are completed consistently each shift without too much variation, building rapport with patients is something that you really learn on the job.”

“Establishing that therapeutic trusting relationship, understanding the vulnerability, and making a true connection are things that you learn by observing – and by doing – over time.”

It was Trott’s ability to put herself in the shoes of a new or student nurse that made her the ideal person to support development of her unit’s participation in the undergraduate nurse employee program in 2023, and ultimately, to act in a mentorship role to the unit’s first registered psychiatric nurse (RPN) UNEs.

“I approached it thinking about what I would have liked to have known when I started. What would have prepared me to make that shift from student to nurse,” said Trott. “Students come to us with some very developed skills so I thought about how we can help them perform those skills in situations that might be high stress or with patients who might be unpredictable, which is a reality in acute mental health.”

A graduate of Brandon University’s Nursing School, Trott works in the community’s Centre for Adult Psychiatry, a 25 bed inpatient psychiatric unit that sees an average of 550-600 admissions per year. Patients from across Western Manitoba are supported through times of severe crisis, including assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, medication reviews or adjustments, psychological testing or assessment and more.

In 2023, the unit was given the opportunity to participate in the UNE program, which offers third and fourth-year nursing students who meet the eligibility requirements an opportunity to work in a medical, surgical or mental health setting. 

“We had the opportunity to really tailor this program to what would work on our unit, recognizing the specific patient population we care for and the opportunity for registered psychiatric nursing students to put their classroom learning to use in a clinical setting,” said Trott who has just completed her first UNE mentorship and is preparing for the next.

Building strong connections is what drew Trott to a career in psychiatric nursing and she is excited to be offering her knowledge and experience to a new graduating class of nurses training to support this highly specialized patient population.

“Our UNEs were able to watch what senior nurses were doing, how they handled and de-escalated situations or built trusting relationships with patients so they could provide care safely. This allowed them to build confidence as well as inter-personal and critical thinking skills in a safe and mentored environment,” she added. “It was a very positive experience that both benefited the unit and provided a really positive learning opportunity for the students.”

Undergraduate Nurse Employee opportunities are available across Manitoba. For eligibility requirements, to learn more about the role, and to apply, visit Undergraduate Nurse Employee (

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