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Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Practice in Five California County Mental Health Departments

  • Author(s): Hurd, Manton Scott
  • Advisor(s): Phoenix, Beth
  • et al.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) are not well represented in the mental health care workforce. With increasing demand for mental health services and corresponding proportional decline in the overall number of psychiatrists, PMHNPs could help to meet this developing need. However, PMHNP practice and roles they fill in mental health care is poorly understood. This secondary analysis of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) study, sought to better understand roles, advantages and disadvantages and barriers to expanded use of PMHNPs. Through interviews with administrators and PMHNPs in five county mental health departments in California, PMHNPs were found to serve in similar, if not identical roles to that of psychiatrists. PMHNPs were reported to provide quality care in a holistic manner to patients, and to collaborate well with other staff. In addition, they were reported to be easier to recruit than psychiatrists, and to be less costly. Confusion around requirement for supervision of PMHNPs, inconsistent use of supervision and refusal of psychiatrists to supervise PMHNPs were identified as primary barriers to expanded use of PMHNPs.

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