I am a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner working in the Department of Psychiatry School Based Counseling Program. We have 32 master-level therapists providing counseling at 35 Metro Nashville Public Schools – mostly elementary and middle schools. My role is to provide medication management and consultation services to students at 22 of the sites. I travel to each site usually once per month and work closely with the child’s school-based therapist. I treat a variety of childhood psychiatric illnesses – anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, depression and behavioral issues are the most common.
Offering mental health services in the school-based setting significantly increases access to care for students, their families and the school staff. All of my patients are on TennCare and many lack transportation. Bringing services to the schools not only improves access but greatly decreases a student’s time out of the classroom.
I also work as a preceptor with VUSN supervising psychiatric NP students.
One challenge unique to my role also creates a unique opportunity. As I cover multiple schools, I spend a significant amount of time driving. Some of our sites are remote and have only a few children with medication needs. Last school year we began a pilot utilizing telemedicine. This school year, I am slowly increasing telemedicine services which allows me to the opportunity to follow the more stable patients remotely. All initial medication evaluations are on site, but depending on the needs of the child, follow-up visits may occasionally be via telemedicine.
The biggest challenge of my role is scheduling and coordinating medication checks at 22 (and counting) schools. I have very little nursing support so refilling requests and responding to messages consume much time.
Professionally, I am most proud of providing comprehensive care to children and families in need. The families I serve often face multiple adversities. I find that working in the school setting allows me to more thoroughly assess emotional and behavioral needs of my patients because of the direct collaboration with the child’s therapist, educators, social workers, administrators, and parents. A multi-disciplinary approach brings a tailored treatment plan improving outcomes for children emotionally, socially and often academically.
Additionally, this school year, I have more than doubled the number of medication sites in the school based therapy program. I am proud to be able to bring medication services to all of the sites we serve.
Outside of work, I am involved in various activities with my husband and three elementary-aged children. I love being a mother and wife, playing outside with my kids, reading and spending time with family and friends.