Three new programs in the Adelphi University College of Nursing and Public Health are helping student nurses find new careers in nursing.
In 1943, a small college on Long Island chartered an army nurse cadet program to meet a growing need for nurses during World War II. In addition to treating soldiers overseas, the new nurses would also help fill a demand for medical professionals at home.
The university responsible for the influx of wartime nurses was Adelphi, and its College of Nursing and Public Health maintains the same principles of leadership and service today.
Beginning in January 2018, the College of Nursing and Public Health will enroll students into three new advanced degree programs, two that focus on psychiatric care—a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (NP) M.S. degree and a Post-Master’s Advanced Practice certificate in the same subject—as well as a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program, a research-based clinical doctorate.
“When you reflect on the history of where we’ve been and where we are going, it’s always been about service to society, patients, families and communities,” Elaine Smith, Ed.D., interim dean of Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health, explained. “We do that by constantly reinventing ourselves to meet societal needs.”
Today, that need has morphed from a transatlantic war effort into serving a growing number of citizens who need treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders. According to Jane White, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of research at Adelphi, who led the faculty team that developed the programs, while 20 percent of New York residents have some type of mental illness or substance use disorder, there are only 1,200 licensed psychiatric nurse practitioners in the entire state of New York. In a quick internet-based job search, Dr. White found 240 openings for psychiatric NP roles in the New York region alone.
The reason for the shortage, Dr. White described, is that while there are growing numbers of people who need psychiatric treatment, fewer and fewer medical students are going into psychiatry. “What’s happening now,” she went on, “is that we have all of these individuals—most of whom are covered under private insurance or the Affordable Care Act—who should be able to get care, without enough [psychiatric] providers across the U.S.”
The benefit of Adelphi’s new psychiatric nurse practitioner programs lies in the ability of the psychiatric-mental health NP to treat clients providing both therapy and medication. The distinction between psychiatric NPs and other types of psychiatric providers is important, as most people with psychiatric disorders need both treatment interventions, what Dr. White calls “talk therapies”—psychotherapy and counseling—and often also need medication.
“That is why we decided to develop our psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program,” Dr. White said. “It meets a very real need to treat mentally ill patients holistically.”
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state of New York pushing for integrated care—that is, encouraging providers in general practice to hire specialists such as psychiatric mental health nurse providers, Dr. White predicts both primary care physicians and psychiatrists will begin to seek more psychiatric-trained NPs to be able to treat more patients.
In fact, she just recently received two calls from psychiatrists who heard Adelphi was opening a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program, wondering if she could send her students to their practices for training. “And we’re not even open yet!” she laughed.
As the psychiatric programs and the clinical doctoral degree (D.N.P.) prepare to make their debuts this spring, both Drs. White and Smith are excited about the opportunity for students to provide more holistic care to vulnerable populations—individuals with mental illness, chemical dependency and the elderly.
They are also inspired by the idea of Adelphi College of Nursing and Public Health students providing a solution to a large-scale societal need—in essence, a return to the nursing college’s roots.
“We develop and implement programs such as the D.N.P. that prepare graduates to be leaders in healthcare,” Dr. Smith emphasized, “working in environments where they have a great impact on patient care, health policy and the administration of healthcare organizations.”
In other words, fighting some of the biggest healthcare battles of our time.
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