Scholarship Addresses Shortage of Child Mental Health Providers

March 05, 2009

The University of Rochester School of Nursing is taking the lead to address New York state’s critical shortage of trained child and adolescent psychiatric and mental health providers. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, one in 10 children in the United States suffers from a mental disorder severe enough to cause some level of impairment. Yet in New York state almost 50 percent of counties do not have a practicing child psychiatric provider.

The situation is particularly dire in rural and underserved communities where there is limited access to child psychiatric providers and mental health services. Often people in these areas rely on their primary care providers to assess and manage child mental health problems. Unfortunately, many primary care providers feel ill equipped to manage these problems, especially the more complex psychiatric disorders that can emerge in childhood.

One way to begin meeting the tremendous need for child mental health services is to encourage nurses who already live and work in these communities to return to school to become child/adolescent psychiatric nurse practitioners and pediatric nurse practitioners with specialization in pediatric behavioral mental health.

The University of Rochester School of Nursing, with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is offering scholarships that will cover half of the tuition for qualified nurses who are admitted to the School’s child /adolescent psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner programs by September 2009. Coursework is primarily online and, to the extent possible, the School contracts with clinical agencies and preceptors in students’ home communities for practicum experiences. This allows nurses already living in rural and underserved areas of New York to complete their advanced nursing education while remaining in their home communities to practice following graduation.

“Child and adolescent psychiatric nurse practitioners offer a robust complement to the array of psychiatric providers striving to meet the needs of young people,” said Holly Brown, M.S., R.N., N.P.P., C.S., assistant professor of clinical nursing and specialty co-director of the child /adolescent and family psychiatric nurse practitioner programs at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. “If we can increase the number of nurse practitioners specializing in these areas, we can help close this service gap. Collaboration is the best way to do that.”

In New York, psychiatric nurse practitioners form collaborative practice agreements with psychiatrists and are licensed to provide psychiatric assessment and diagnosis, psychotherapy, medication prescription and management, family therapy and patient and family education.

“Child and adolescent psychiatric nurse practitioners function well in interdisciplinary teams and in partnership with child psychiatrists, increasing the numbers of children and families that can be served,” said Janiece DeSocio, Ph.D., R.N., N.P.P., C.S., co-director, child /adolescent and family psychiatric nurse practitioner programs at the School of Nursing. “By encouraging professional collaboration and enhancing educational opportunities for advanced practice nurses, we can help organizations deliver high-quality care to children in need and give them a better chance for happier and more productive lives.”

Students must be admitted by September 2009 and enrolled in coursework no later than January 2010. They also must be employed at the time of application by New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) agencies or their licensed affiliates. The OMH is one of the largest providers of public child mental health services. It operates psychiatric centers across the state, and also regulates, certifies and oversees more than 2,500 programs, which are operated by local governments and nonprofit agencies.

Those interested in learning more about this scholarship opportunity can contact Nancy Kita at the University of Rochester School of Nursing Student Affairs Office by phone (585) 275-2375 or Nancy_Kita@URMC.rochester.edu.

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