UB Designs New Program to Meet Demand for Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioners

By Lois Baker

Release Date: October 31, 2003

BUFFALO, N.Y.--The University at Buffalo School of Nursing will inaugurate a new program in January to prepare nurses to be psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners, one of the most in-demand and financially rewarding of nursing specialties.

The program is one of only two offered in Western New York. Nationally, the number of such programs has nearly quadrupled since 1990, from 10 to 38 currently, according to program director Eris Perese, clinical associate professor in UB's nursing school.

"The psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner is one of the fastest growing professions within the mental-health care system," said Perese. "This is due to several factors: an increase in the incidence of mental illnesses such as depression, an increase in the number of people living longer and an insufficient number of physicians entering the field of psychiatry.

"Psychiatrists primarily provide care in private-practice settings or in teaching hospitals or institutions," Perese added. "There are not enough of them to meet the growing need for community-based, mental-health care provided in clinics, schools, day treatment centers, forensic settings and rehabilitation programs.

UB currently offers a post-master's psychiatric nurse practitioner certificate program for nurses who already hold a master's degree as a clinical specialist in psychiatric nursing. The new master's-degree program accepts nurses without a master's degree in psychiatric nursing and prepares them to practice as psychiatric nurse practitioners.

The new program combines elements of the clinical specialist and nurse practitioner preparations. The curriculum encompasses 49 credit hours of advanced-practice nursing courses and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner specialty courses. While a bachelor's degree in nursing is required for admission to the MS program, the specialty also is offered as a BS/MS program for registered nurses with a diploma or an associate's degree in nursing.

Students may attend full- or part-time. Applications are being accepted currently for classes beginning next semester. For information and application materials, contact the nursing school's Student Affairs Office at 716-829-3314, nurse-studentaffairs@buffalo.edu or Perese at 716-829-2346 or perese@buffalo.edu.