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ISU School of Nursing works to meet increased need for mental health care

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POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) – Idaho State University’s School of Nursing is seeing increased enrollment in its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, helping alleviate a shortage of mental health professionals in the state.

The entire state of Idaho is designated as a mental health care provider shortage area. Typically, the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program admits six or seven students each year, but this year the program admitted 15 students, including 11 Idaho residents, into the program.

“Along with the fact that the majority of our graduates stay in Idaho to practice, the increase in enrollment brings about improved access to care for the citizens of Idaho,” said Dr. Susan Tavernier, director of graduate studies in nursing at ISU. “PMHNPs assess, diagnose and treat mental health disorders across the lifespan.”

The program, also recognized for its 100 percent pass rate on the licensure certification exam, will also be admitting the inaugural cohort of Family Nurse Practitioners into a certificate program for PMHNP specialization.

PMHNPs treat many conditions, including substance use disorders, suicidality, eating disorders and mood disorders like depression or anxiety.

“PMHNP's also provide brief counseling for individuals, families or groups and work collaboratively with other mental health professionals,” Tavernier said.

The FNP to PMHNP certificate program provides experienced Family Nurse Practitioners with the clinical and classroom learning needed to become dually licensed as an FNP and PMHNP. This is designed particularly for FNPs in rural areas of Idaho who are often the only provider.

“This is another way Idaho State is improving access to mental health care for the rural and very remote areas of Idaho,” Dr. Tavernier said.

This care is also expanding to the Meridian Health Care Clinic, a faculty-led clinic that provides primary health care to all ages, including preventative care, chronic disease treatment and management, women’s health and pediatric care. The clinic has access to mental health services and is planning to expand the PMNHP services for rural areas using telehealth.

Article Topic Follows: Pocatello
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