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College of Nursing

College of Nursing to Offer Psychiatric Nurse Programs

The College of Nursing is re-opening its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Programs at the MSN, DNP and Post Masters Certificate levels to introduce more of these specially trained nurses into the system and better meet the needs of the state’s residents. The program will begin in the fall semester of 2015.

Professor and practicing psychiatric nurse practitioner Tena Hunt McKinney, PhD, APRN, PMHNP-BC, who will be the director of the program, is ready to take on the mission of producing more high quality, mental health professionals to work in the state. “Providing quality care is something that I’m really passionate about, because there are a plethora of folks who are sick and not getting care and their families are not getting the support they need either,” she says.

“Ninety percent of graduates from our nurse practitioner programs remain in the state of South Carolina, so we have a good track record of our grads staying where they are needed most” says McKinney. Re-opening this program is projected to yield 60-75 psychiatric nurse practitioners by the year 2020. “If this number of nurse practitioners sees even six patients, four days a week, which is a very low number, we can expect to serve an additional 72,000 patients by 2020,” says McKinney, who sees this as a big win for the state.

Full and part time options are available for all degree programs. “There are currently no other psychiatric nurse practitioner programs available in our state or surrounding region, and we are happy to lead the state’s efforts in meeting this demand,” says Jeannette Andrews, dean for the College of Nursing.

“Mental illness is a major public health concern, and South Carolinians have limited access to mental health care,” says Andrews. “We are in a dire need to increase the supply of mental health care providers and increase access to care for individuals and families with mental health needs.”

The need for nurses with this training is highest in rural areas. Seventy five percent of the nurse practitioners in the state work in these high-need areas. All but three counties in South Carolina: Richland, Greenville, and Charleston, fall into the category of medically underserved. In areas like this, patients who wish to get an appointment with a provider face many obstacles like length of time to their appointment, difficulties getting their insurance accepted, and a high, out of pocket cost for a psychiatric evaluation.

An advisory council of leaders in health systems around the state is being created to come together as the eyes and ears of the nursing community, to let the college know what is needed educationally, as well as to assist in integrating these new graduates into practices and health systems to improve the health of the communities in South Carolina.  

Applications for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program will be accepted through March 1, 2015 for the upcoming fall semester. To apply or obtain more information on the program please visit the  Graduate Programs section of our website

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