Frontier Nursing University (FNU) alumna Dr. Stephanie A. Patterson, DNP, PMHNP-BC, obtained her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree in the summer of 2019 and is making strides in the mental healthcare field. In her urban community of Los Angeles, Calif., mental illness is a widespread problem.
“In Los Angeles, there is a high need for DNP-prepared PMHNPs like me because of the pervasiveness of mental illness in the community. Current statistics show that 63 percent of adults in California with mental illness did not receive treatment during the past year,” said Stephanie.
Stephanie currently serves as an inpatient psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), where she works with mentally ill adults. Her patients are typically admitted involuntarily after presenting themselves as a danger to themselves or others. Stephanie and her team evaluate and observe patients until they are stabilized and discharged into a lower level of care.
Stephanie is a strong advocate for medication management among patients with mental illnesses, knowing what medication regimens typically work for particular diagnoses. She takes time to listen to each patient, observe for side effects of medication and educate the patient on the importance of consistent medication and follow-up appointments.
“It is important that our patients know that they can still maintain a functional life in the community, hold jobs or stay in school, etc., despite having a mental health condition. This is why patient education is so crucial,” Stephanie said.
Improving quality for better patient outcomes is one of Stephanie’s passions, which prompted her to pursue her DNP. She recently presented her final DNP project at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Forum in Orlando, Fla., highlighting a patient-centered approach to improving appointment adherence rates in the mental health arena.
“I was very excited to present my project among like-minded professionals,” said Stephanie. “It was the culmination of my education at FNU and my commitment to the underserved in mental healthcare.”
In deciding where to enroll for her DNP, Stephanie did a lot of research and settled on FNU.
“I researched FNU’s history, plus the flexibility was really important so I was still able to work while pursuing my DNP. I’m very happy with my decision.”
Stephanie was also drawn by the renown of FNU’s faculty. “Many faculty have been in the field for 30 years or more across all different regions of the country, offering a wealth of clinical expertise and institutional knowledge,” she said.
She also benefited from receiving education from both certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), which was an important opportunity.
During her DNP studies, Stephanie picked up a major tool that she has since implemented into her practice. She uses a shared decision-making aid to engage patients and takes time to explain to her patients why keeping their appointments is so important.
“The shared decision-making model isn’t used much in the mental health community, but FNU taught me to use it and it has been an effective way to provide the patient with a foundation for making decisions based on individual values, preferences and goals for treatment,” she said.
She uses the motivational interviewing strategy during her initial consultations with patients, helping them commit to making changes to improve their health and wellbeing. She has seen this method improve mental and overall health outcomes and reduce relapses.
We are proud of Stephanie for her work with the underserved mentally ill community and her commitment to quality improvement in mental healthcare. Thank you, Stephanie!