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University Responds to Demands for Mental Health Practitioners With New Nursing Class

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   February 11, 2022

'The nurse practitioner really can play an important role in the psychiatric field,' program director says.

Addressing a critical need for more mental health care workers in Southern California and nationwide, Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) College of Graduate Nursing has welcomed its first class of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner students.

"Demands for mental health practitioners have steadily grown in California due to COVID-19," says Christy Cotner, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, who serves as the College of Graduate Nursing's Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program director. "The nurse practitioner really can play an important role in the psychiatric field."

A shortage of nurses for COVID-19 patients is commonly known, but psychiatric nurses are in short supply, as well, particularly when more than 75% of all U.S. counties have a shortage of any type of mental health worker and 96% of all counties have an unmet need for mental health prescribers, according to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA).

The care gap is most profound in rural states where 111 million Americans live in mental health professional shortage areas, the APNA says. COVID-19, with the isolation and other issues it has caused, only further proves the need for access to mental health services, says a press release from WesternU.

WesternU's new program is designed for nurses with a master’s degree in nursing, or nurses who are earning their Master of Science in Nursing degree.

"A lot of times nurses will go into the psychiatric field having only been a psychiatric nurse," Cotner says.

"They really don’t have that medical piece, which you really must be able to rule out those organic causes before you can even think about the psychiatric causes," she says.

"We really look at the whole picture. Our training is holistic," she says. "And that’s really what we need for psychiatry. We need a holistic look at the patient."

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

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