Nursing & Healthcare News

Nurse Practitioners for Mental Health

Program to add 300 NPs in California

California’s supply of mental health providers is about to get a major shot in the arm: The California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) and three UC schools of nursing have just launched a new program to train 300 additional psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) over the next five years.

Tackling the Provider Shortage

A year ago, the California Future Health Workforce Commission warned that the state faces a mental health provider shortage that will only get worse as aging psychiatrists and psychologists retire over the next decade.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners could help address that shortfall, but there aren’t enough of them to meet the demand, and existing training programs add only 70 to 80 more each year. The commission’s final report recommended a major investment in mental health training for NPs.

Hiring Now

Now, that recommendation has become a reality: CHCF, UC Davis, UCLA and UCSF are launching a new post-master’s certificate program that will almost double the state’s PMHNP training capacity.

Hundreds of Thousands Will Benefit

The new PMHNP certificate program will be 30 units, taking nine to 12 months to complete and including 500 supervised clinical hours. Most classes will be conducted online (with three in-person sessions), making the program available to NPs in rural areas who haven’t previously had access to this type of training.

Running the program won’t be cheap — estimated five-year cost is $24.6 million — but it should pay big dividends: 300 additional PMHNPs by 2025.

“Once these providers are fully deployed,” says CHCF President and CEO Sandra R. Hernández, “they will improve access to mental health care for hundreds of thousands of Californians who desperately need it.” The program will accept 45 students for the initial fall 2020 cohort. For more information, visit nursing.ucsf.edu.

Above: Arjun Gokhale, RN, MSN (center), a student in the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specialty of the UCSF School of Nursing’s Master of Science Program, and psychiatric nurse practitioner Sherri Borden, RN, M.S., ANP (right) meet with a client at Citywide Focus in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy UCSF; Elisabeth Fall).


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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