UNMC Grants - Award to add psychiatric nurse practitioners statewide

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public relations | October 28, 2009

picture disc.In Nebraska, about 250,000 adults have diagnosable mental illnesses and an estimated 64,500 suffer from serious mental illness, yet there are only 211 psychiatrists, 46 psychiatric nurse practitioners and nine psychiatric physician assistants in the state.

And, about 68 percent of these professionals practice in the Omaha/Lincoln areas, which leaves 89 of the state's 93 counties as mental health workforce shortage areas.

A three-year, $1.18 million grant awarded to the UNMC College of Nursing by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, will increase the number of psychiatric nurse practitioners in Nebraska by 43. The grant creates access to two programs that use enhanced distance education technology to let students from throughout the state complete course and clinical requirements.

"The technology also will enable faculty to supervise students in clinical settings and communicate with the students' preceptors who supervise and monitor the students in clinical settings," said Michael Rice, Ph.D., professor of psychiatric nursing, UNMC College of Nursing and project director of the grant.

The programs are:

  • A 44 credit hour family psychiatric nurse practitioner master's degree; or
  • A 20 credit family psychiatric nurse practitioner "Sprint Track" post master's certificate designed for those who currently are nurse practitioners in rural areas.

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New computer technology purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will enable Michael Rice, Ph.D., left, and Julia Houfek, Ph.D., to teach and monitor student clinical visits throughout Nebraska from their offices, as they do with graduate student Tanya Osmon of Roca, Neb., in this photo.
The new technology helps the college overcome time and distance barriers, said Julia Houfek, Ph.D., UNMC College of Nursing associate professor and co-director of the grant.

The grant will include recruiting students in rural and medically underserved communities, as well as minority students, Dr. Houfek said.

Drs. Rice and Houfek will coordinate educational and service delivery training with the Behavioral Health Workforce Center (funded by Nebraska Legislative Bill 603). The act provides funds to increase the number of psychiatric residents and interdisciplinary training of mental health providers in the state.

The grant is one of five grants that total $4.26 million awarded recently to the college that will enhance and expand Nebraska's nursing workforce.

For more information, contact Dr. Rice at mjrice@unmc.edu or (402) 559-5464, or Beth Syphers at bsyphers@unmc.edu or (402)559-3858.