Psychiatric nurses fill a key need in mental health care
The front-page article “Finding no help on mental issues” (Oct. 21) described a critical shortage of mental health providers available to meet the needs of people seeking psychiatric care in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the article left out an important group of providers — advanced practice psychiatric nurses.
These nurses have master’s or doctoral-level nursing degrees and national board certification qualifying them as specialists who can assess, diagnose, and treat people with mental health problems. Treatment may include psychotherapy and/or prescribing psychiatric medications as indicated. Advanced practice psychiatric nurses are the only mental health professionals, aside from psychiatrists, licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe psychiatric medications.
According to the US Health Resources and Services Administration and the Massachusetts boards of registration in nursing and medicine, there are an estimated 1,100 advanced practice psychiatric nurses and 3,100 psychiatrists in the state.
By neglecting to include nurses, this article provided an incomplete picture of the mental health workforce in the state. The inclusion of advanced practice psychiatric nurses in this discussion does not negate the struggle many people face in getting access to care, but finding effective solutions is easier when you know all the resources available.
Janice H. Goodman
The writers are on the faculty of the School of Nursing at the MGH Institute of Health Professions.