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UCLA Wants To Boost Supply Of Psych Nurse Practitioners By Offering Online Training

The new online certification program for psychiatric nurse practitioners is aimed at increasing the number of mental health providers, especially outside of major urban centers. (Jacqueline Kelly/Unsplash)
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Nurse practitioners who want to work in mental health will soon be able to take an online certification program through UCLA and two other UC schools (UC Davis and UCSF). The goal of the new psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program is to address the growing shortage of mental health professionals, especially in areas like the Inland Empire.

A 2018 report from UCSF found that 45% of psychiatrists and 37% of psychologists are over 60 years old and are likely to retire or reduce their work hours over the next decade.

PMHNPs, along with psychiatrists and primary care doctors, can prescribe psychotropic medications and treat mental illness and substance abuse disorders, according to Kathryn Phillips, senior program manager at the California Health Care Foundation. The foundation has provided a $1.5 million grant to help develop and launch the online program.

Currently there are only 1,200 PMHNPs in the state. This program’s goal is to add 300 more by 2025.

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Previously, the two-year certification course, which includes in-person clinical training, could only be done on UCSF's campus. So nurse practitioners outside the Los Angeles area would either have to make long commutes or move to be near the campus.

Now, nurses practitioners can do the coursework remotely and do clinical training in their region.

“This keeps access in their communities,” Phillips said.

The first cohort will start in fall 2020.