Expanding PMHNP Practice and Training Sites Serving Children and Youth

Investigator: Bethany J. Phoenix, RN, PhD, FAAN
Sponsor: U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration

Location(s): United States


Fifty-five of California’s 58 counties have been designated behavioral health professional shortage areas, and the shortage of child psychiatrists is particularly acute. Despite the urgent need for mental health providers who can provide a full range of psychiatric services that includes medication management, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) have not been widely utilized in local agencies working with children and youth. Barriers to expanding use of PMHNPs with this population include inaccurate beliefs about the regulatory framework for PMHNP practice, misunderstanding of scope of practice and lack of clarity about the unique expertise PMHNPs bring to the interdisciplinary behavioral health team. The limited number of PMHNPs in agencies serving children and youth is a barrier to expanding PMHNP clinical training sites since there are few PMHNPs available to function as preceptors and mentors. Although other behavioral health professionals function as preceptors for PMHNP students, interdisciplinary preceptors may lack a full understanding of the PMHNP role if they do not have PMHNPs on their team. This project will develop UCSF PMHNP faculty practice sites as a strategy to ensure high quality clinical training for PMHNP students and coordinate the preparation of increasing numbers of PMHNP graduates trained to work with children and youth with the readiness of behavioral health systems to absorb these highly skilled graduates. PMHNP faculty will provide behavioral health services, precept students and model PMHNP practice on interdisciplinary behavioral health teams, including quality improvement. They will also serve as expert resources to local public mental health systems on issues such as recruiting and training new PMHNPs, developing positions that allow PMHNPs to function at the top of their scope of practice, and mentoring new graduate PMHNPs. The project has three objectives: 

Objective 1: Provide stipend funding support for 10 PMHNP students per year who are in residency placements that provide behavioral health services to children and youth. 
Objective 2: Establish UCSF PMHNP faculty practice sites in agencies serving children and youth. One faculty practice site will be established during the first year of the grant, with two additional sites established year in Years 2 and one additional site in Year 3. 
Objective 3: Increase the number of PMHNP graduates employed in public mental health settings serving children and youth in surrounding counties. During Years 2 and 3, at least five graduates per year will obtain such employment.