DiversityNursing Blog

Commentary: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Can Help Address Increased Demand for Mental Health Services

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, May 19, 2014 @ 03:30 PM

By Susan Chapman and Bethany J. Phoenix

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Because the Affordable Care Act requires that individual and small-group plans include coverage for mental health care that is comparable to that for general medical care, many analysts expect the demand for mental health services to dramatically increase over the next few years. In California, finding enough mental health providers to meet the demand will be a challenge, as the federal Health Resources and Services Administration has identified 128 Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas in our state.

After documenting vacancy rates for mental health professionals in county-operated mental health programs and state hospitals, the California Mental Health Planning Council suggested that one way to address this shortage is to increase the recruitment and preparation of psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) as primary mental health providers. Given the direction of health care service delivery in the US, perhaps the most important advantage PMHNPs offer is that they are educated in an integrative practice model that stresses connections between physical and mental health and emphasizes health promotion. This is especially critical in public mental health settings, where many patients struggle to get to any health care appointment, much less multiple appointments with multiple providers.

Using PMHNPs to address shortages and increase access to care in public mental health settings, however, faces a number of challenges. To help understand and address these challenges, we are collaborating with the California Institute for Mental Health (CiMH) to conduct a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded study that will include case studies in five California counties with a history of using PMHNPs. The aim is to document best practices, identify unnecessary restrictions on NP practice and formulate strategies to remove these restrictions. By the conclusion of the study in 2015, we hope to have evidence-based information for key stakeholders – from public mental health care systems to state policymakers – about how PMHNPs can help increase access to mental health services in the state.

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One thing the study will allow us to do is examine in more detail presumed barriers that have emerged both anecdotally and from prior research. To begin with, just as with primary care, there is a need to rapidly fill the pipeline by incentivizing existing and future students to work in public mental health. That’s why beginning in 2009, California’s Mental Health Services Act began funding educational stipends to PMHNP students at three schools of nursing, including UC San Francisco. The stipend requires that students “pay back” their stipend by working in a public mental health setting for the equivalent of a year of service for each year of stipend funding.

That’s a fine start, but many of our colleagues across the state are concerned that scope-of-practice laws and the lack of good practice models for PMHNPs in California appear to undermine the effort to prime the pipeline.

For example, UCSF School of Nursing faculty member Aaron Miller was educated in Oregon and says that the biggest difference between the two states is that, “In Oregon, NPs can practice without a collaborative agreement with a physician…and the scope-of-practice law in Oregon contains an explicit description of the NP’s scope of practice: assessment, diagnosis, creation of plan and treatment.” By contrast, he says, in California NPs must always have a collaborative agreement in place with a supervising physician, and in every setting they have to devise agreed-upon standardized procedures that define what the NP can do – essentially, the scope of practice. Moreover, at present, practice models in the state do not facilitate optimal billing for PMHNP services.

Ebony Anderson, one of our former stipend students, says these limitations have dampened her willingness to strike out into independent practice as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Thus, even as many in the state recognize that NPs can provide high-quality care and organizations are starting to utilize NPs’ full scope of practice, a number of factors may be erecting unnecessary obstacles to meeting the mental health needs of many Californians – especially in areas already short on qualified providers. These factors include reimbursement challenges, the effort involved in defining acceptable scope for each setting and finding physicians willing to provide NPs with the mandated level of supervision – and bill for services under their provider numbers, if appropriate.

Our charge, among other things, is to examine how and to what degree these factors affect the state’s ability to meet expected growth in demand for mental health services. Such research is the lifeblood of policy change. Our hope is that the results of our work will enable the state to fully leverage an educational system that is training PMHNPs to deliver outstanding care but, at least at the moment, sending them into a health care system that is not yet taking full advantage of their strengths.

Susan Chapman and Bethany J. Phoenix are leading a study to examine the structural, practice and policy opportunities and barriers that affect psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners’ ability to most effectively use their skills and expertise in public mental health settings. Chapman directs the Health Policy Nursing specialty in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UC San Francisco School of Nursing. Phoenix is vice chair of the School’sDepartment of Community Health Systems and coordinates the School’s Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing specialty. The study is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Future of Nursing National Research Agenda, which is coordinated by the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Source: Science of Caring

Topics: California, study, ACA, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nurse practitioners, CiMH

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Statement on National Minority Health Month

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Apr 09, 2014 @ 12:29 PM

In April, we commemorate National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about health disparities that persist among racial and ethnic minorities. This year’s theme - “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity” - embodies the ambitious goal put forward by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to achieve “a nation free of disparities in health and health care.”

Despite some recent progress in addressing health disparities, great challenges remain. Minorities are far more likely than non-Hispanic whites to suffer from chronic conditions, many of which are preventable. This is a particularly troubling statistic, because chronic diseases account for seven of the ten leading causes of death in our nation.

For example, African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more than three times as likely to receive the same diagnosis. And Latinos are twice as likely to die from liver cancer.

While these persistent disparities are deeply troubling, there are some hopeful trends. The gap in life expectancy between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites has been closing, and is now the smallest it’s been since these statistics have been tracked.
Additionally, seasonal flu vaccination coverage has tripled for children over the past four years and has contributed to a reduction in vaccination disparities among minority children.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health coverage is now more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans, including minority groups. For minority populations, the law addresses inequities in access to quality and affordable coverage.
The impact of the Affordable Care Act on communities across our nation is transformative. Over seven million African Americans, nearly four million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and over eight million Latinos with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. This includes screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for children and adults. Communities across the country are now stronger because the law invests in creating healthier communities, strong public health infrastructure, and preventing disease before it starts.

During Minority Health Month, we applaud the commitment of all of our federal, state, tribal, and local partners in our shared work to implement the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity. To learn more about National Minority Health Month and what HHS is doing to achieve health equity, please visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov

Source: OMH

Topics: ACA, Minority Health Month, HHS, health, minority

Doctor shortage may not be as bad as feared, study says

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Nov 13, 2013 @ 10:14 AM

Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY

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New roles for nurse practitioners and physician assistants may cut a predicted shortage of physicians by about 50%, according to a new study released Monday.

The surge in new patients covered by health insurance that will be sparked by the Affordable Care Act has led to predictions that there will be a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians by 2025, about 20% less than the predicted demand, said David Auerbach, a policy researcher at the Rand Corp., a non-profit policy think tank that conducted the study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.

Those studies, Auerbach said, were based on the assumption that health care practices would not change how they operate and ignore provisions in the 2010 law that allow the creation of nurse-managed health centers and medical homes that could relieve physicians of some of their caseload. Technology improvements, also spurred by the law, could also relieve part of the shortage, he said.

"The story has been, 'There's a looming physician shortage, and the Affordable Care Act's going to make it worse, so what are we going to do?" Auerbach said. "But even policy-makers looking at those numbers don't realize they're coming from a static, unchanging way of how we deliver care."

A surplus of 34,000 nurse practitioners, about 48% above demand, and 4,000 surplus physician assistants will help relieve the doctor shortage, Auerbach and his research team found.

Two elements are critical to relieving the shortage, Auerbach said:

• Medical homes. A group of people working together to provide care. A physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner leads the team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists and social workers using electronic health records and care coordination. Each team can care for larger numbers of patients than a doctor could on his or her own.

• Nurse-managed health centers. These are centers managed by nurses consisting of nurse practitioners. Usually, they are affiliated with academic medical centers, and they often provide specialty care to low-income populations.

"I think these changes can matter quite a lot," Auerbach said. "It's sort of a given: If you use nurse-managed health centers, you're not using a lot of doctors. But patient-centered medical homes, I guess we really didn't know the outcome."

So far, Auerbach said, researchers have seen positive examples of how the changes can work, but they need more analysis.

The new health law promotes these models because they save money, and has provided up to $50 million in direct grants to support nurse-managed health centers. And there are pilot programs for Medicare and Medicaid patient-centered medical homes. The authors said states may need to "liberalize" scope-of-practice laws for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to fill those roles, as well as supply more nurses and aides.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is launching a new advertising campaign to try to push for those opportunities, as well as to help people understand what nurse practitioners do.

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 60 new physician assistant programs were waiting for accreditation as of May, and they expect 10,000 new physician assistants by 2020.

Source: USA Today

Topics: physician assistant, ACA, doctor shortage, healthcare, nurse, nurse practitioner

School nurses' duties expand with changing times

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Nov 01, 2013 @ 10:51 AM

By Maria Sonnenberg

describe the imageThe Boy Scout motto of "be prepared" equally applies to today's school nurses, who not only deal with the typical bruises and tummy aches that have always been part of school life, but must now contend with a student population that is increasingly more medically fragile.

As school systems face budget cuts, nurses must also adapt to a "migrant" lifestyle as they are assigned to several schools during a workweek.

"There have been a lot of changes in the last 20 years," said Pamelia Hamilton, community health nurse consultant and school health coordinator for the Brevard Department of Health, which supervises the 160 nurses and health technicians who serve public schools in Brevard County.

According to the National Association of School Nurses, a third of all school districts reduced nursing staff in the past year because of the recession, and a quarter of all school districts in the nation don't have nurses. In these districts, medical emergencies are typically handled by a school's front office staff, the way they were in Brevard until the late 1980s, when nurses were first introduced to local schools.

Brevard's ratio of nurse to students — about 1 per 450 — is exemplary, when considering that Florida, with a nurse-to-student ratio of 1 to 2,537, is at the bottom of the list in the number of nurses in schools. Only Utah, North Dakota and Michigan are worse off in numbers. Vermont, on the other hand, has a ratio of 1 nurse per 396 students.

The National Association of School Nurses recommends a 1-to-750 ratio for well students and 1 to 125 in student populations with complex health care needs.

"People who live here think our nursing program is the norm everywhere, but when they move out, they are in for a shock," Hamilton said.

"What we do is so extraordinary that we've been recognized with several awards."

The health department hires, trains and pays the school district's nurses. In turn, the district reimburses the health department for most costs incurred in running the program.

New responsibilities

The foremost duty of a school nurse is to keep kids learning as long as possible. These days, that can take the form of fixing an accidentally stapled finger or a nasty cold, as it did years ago, but it can also entail helping a pregnant teen stay in school and teaching them to become a good mother. Brevard's Teen Parent Program, for example, assists about 250 pregnant girls at Palm Bay, Eau Gallie, Titusville and Cocoa high schools.

"We explain to them what is happening to their bodies and train them to care for their babies," Hamilton said.

School nurses today also go beyond the traditional boundaries of kindergarten to high school students. Nurse Travia Williams and her team of technicians travel through the county's Head Start program sites to provide the screening, physicals and related services necessary for the little ones to be better prepared when their school days start.

Other nurses are devoted to one-on-one care with medically needy students who otherwise would not be able to attend school.

School nurses are also tasked with managing children's increasingly complex medical conditions and chronic illnesses. A child may have a tracheotomy or require nasal gastric tube feeds by an experienced nurse. Nurses may be required to monitor students' insulin pumps and keep track of inhalers and EpiPens. In some instances, Medicaid pays for a private duty nurse to be with the student one-on-one throughout the school day.

"Professional responsibilities have not changed overall," said Carolyn Duff, president of theschoolnurse National Association of School Nurses. "What has changed is the increasing number of students with chronic health conditions, including asthma, diabetes and severe allergies. All of these conditions have the potential for life-threatening emergencies. What this means for school nurses is an increasing need to train and maintain a competent team of unlicensed school personnel to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies.

"Another change is a welcome change," Duff said. "There is now a greater emphasis on prevention and wellness in health care."

"School nurses are identifying students at risk for both health and learning problems at an early age and are able to initiate early referrals for intervention and treatment."

The National Association of School Nurses lists data that underscores why school nurses' duties are so varied these days. Among students ages 12 to 19, pre-diabetes and diabetes has increased from 9 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2008, and 32 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese. More than 10 million children suffer from asthma. The prevalence of food allergies among children younger than 18 increased 19 percent from 1997 to 2007.

Mental health issues among students are on the rise. School nurses estimate they spent about a third of their time providing mental health services.

Overall, 15 percent to 18 percent of children and adolescents have a chronic health condition, nearly half of whom could be considered disabling.

ACA's impact

The enactment of the Affordable Care Act could provide an opportunity to strengthen a nurse program that serves the nation's 52 million school-age children. For many of these students, the school nurse is the sole provider of access to health care.

Health care reform's emphasis on wellness dovetails with the goals of school nurses, who provide continuity of care and promote healthy lifestyles for students during their most critical developmental years. They perform early intervention services such as periodic assessments for vision, hearing and dental problems with the goal of removing barriers to learning.

States are testing different health care models for high value rather than high cost and high volume. School nurses are included in the plan.

"Health care reform will lead to greater opportunity for school nurses to successfully connect students from low-income families to medical homes, because more students will be insured," Duff said.

"More widespread access to medical homes will provide greater opportunity for school health services to focus on prevention and wellness and tighter management of students with chronic disease."

Source: USA Today

Topics: nursing students, ACA, new responsibilities, serious illness, hygiene, migrant

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