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Pediatric NPs Gain a New Tool to Strengthen Mental Healthcare for Young Patients

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   June 16, 2023

NAPNAP Cares is an online continuing education course for pediatric-focused nurse practitioners.

Pediatric-focused nurse practitioners (NPs) are responding to what many call a pediatric mental health crisis with an extensive education program focused on mental health for young patients.

The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is launching NAPNAP Cares, with online continuing education (CE) courses designed to support pediatric-focused NPs and advanced practice RNs (APRNs) as they respond to the growing need for mental health care among young patients.

While the volume of pediatric patients requiring mental health support increases, access to specialists is becoming more limited. NAPNAP Cares will help strengthen the provider network by equipping pediatric-focused NPs with the tools to screen, assess, and diagnose patients in their practice setting, according to NAPNAP.

The U.S. is facing what many describe as a pediatric mental health crisis, with approximately one in five children and young people reporting mental health concerns.

The pandemic has had a negative impact on the mental health of children due to such factors as social isolation and caregiving disruptions, and about one in five children and young people report mental health concerns, according to NAPNAP.

Increased suicide risk for children and young people was among the Emergency Care Research Institute’s (ECRI) Top 10 patient safety concerns of 2023.

“The increase in children experiencing extreme anxiety and depression has led to an increase in suicidal ideation, with more young people aged 12 to 25 presenting to the emergency department (ED) for suspected suicide attempts,” according to ECRI’s report.

And at emergency departments, the most common diagnoses for pediatric mental health visits with a length of stay greater than 24 hours were suicide, self-injury, and depressive disorders, according to a study late last year published by the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open.

“Too many kids and teens today are struggling with mental health issues in the face of stresses at school, on social media, or in their relationships,” says Jennifer Sonney, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, president of NAPNAP.

“When pediatric-focused NPs are able to confidently address these issues, it can be life-changing for young patients and help alleviate some of the strain on mental health specialists. NAPNAP Cares enables earlier intervention, which often leads to better outcomes for these young patients,” she says.

NAPNAP Cares will launch 30 online courses during the next 12 months, all of which will be accessible at no cost to NAPNAP members for up to one year and available for purchase by non-members. The first 10 courses are available now on PedsCESM with 10 additional courses launching in both December 2023 and June 2024.

Learners will set their own schedules and follow courses comprised of recorded sessions, presentation handouts, and other resources designed to expand their knowledge of pediatric mental health and their ability to apply lessons in a real-world setting.

“NAPNAP Cares is an important tool,” says James H. Wendorf, executive director of NAPNAP, “that will help pediatric providers build their knowledge base to identify, treat and/or refer patients to the specialized care they deserve.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


The U.S. is facing what many describe as a pediatric mental health crisis.

Increased suicide risk for children and young people was among the ECRI’s Top 10 patient safety concerns of 2023.

NPs have a new resource to treat a rising need for pediatric mental healthcare.

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