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A Nurse Practitioner's View: Psychiatric nurse practitioners help those suffering from mental illness

The number of people suffering from mental illness continues to rise nationwide. In 2016, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, there were 226,000 people suffering with a severe mental illness in Minnesota. A severe mental illness is defined by a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that significantly impairs major life functioning and includes illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Amy RoeschPsychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, or PMHNPs, are prepared to provide high-quality care to those suffering from these disorders, as well as substance-abuse disorders and other mental illnesses. National Nurse Practitioner Week continues through Saturday.

PMHNPs are required to hold a master's or doctoral degree in psychiatric nursing and have completed advanced education and clinical training in this specialty area. Many PMHNPs have extensive experience providing care to patients as psychiatric nurses, which has further prepared them to provide holistic care in the role of a nurse practitioner. PMHNPs consider the whole person when providing care, looking at patient-specific biological, psychological, and social factors. PMHNPs are licensed to practice independently and are able to prescribe medications, provide psychotherapy, provide case management, and manage overall patient care.

The U.S is experiencing a health care provider crisis, especially in mental health care. With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, there has been an increase in access to health insurance and care services for those with mental health disorders. It is crucial that these people who are newly covered by insurance are able to access mental health care; the problem is that there are not enough mental health providers to care for them all.

The U.S. Department of Human Services reports there are not enough psychiatrists or PMHNPs to meet the present demand of treating mental and substance-use disorders; the department states that this unmet need will increase significantly by 2025.

There are currently more than 234,000 nurse practitioners licensed to practice in the U.S.; however only 4.2 percent of them specialize in mental health services. This equals about three PMHNPs per 100,000 people, which is obviously not enough.

There is a need for public awareness to support the growing need for PMHNPs to care for those suffering with mental health disorders. PMHNPs are cost-effective solutions to the mental health care provider crisis, and they are prepared to provide high-quality mental health care to communities across the country.

Amy Roesch is a University of North Dakota student studying to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or PMHNP. She expects to graduate this spring. She currently is living in Duluth and practicing as a registered nurse in the Miller Dwan Medical Center's child and adolescent behavioral health unit.