Addie Snyder said she always wanted to be a nurse practitioner. It wasn’t until she spent a semester in psychiatry that she knew what path she would take.
“I could see there’s this whole other side that people don’t think about because of the stigma of mental illness that people don’t want to talk about,” Synder said. “I just saw that treating the whole person was the best path to health.”
Synder said there was something about meeting someone in that vulnerable place that spoke to him; something many don’t get the chance to do.
“It’s normal to talk about it as much as our blood pressure and blood sugar levels,” Synder said. “I think the normalization has helped a lot and they are leaving with the feeling that a lot of people are dealing with it and that everything is fine. We can get through this, and we can talk about it and find ways to improve things. I feel like they trust me to grow into this and it’s been so rewarding.”
Snyder, who was part of the class of 2013 with a nurse practitioner concentration in psychiatric mental health at UL Lafayette, she was one of the last.
But now, nine years later, the university is bringing the focus back – seeing a need for help in navigating mental health.
“There is a shortage of mental health care providers in the community, especially in rural areas,” said Abby McNeil, assistant professor of the Psych Mental Health program. “We really need to provide training and education to providers to get them into the field.”
McNeil said there has always been a shortage of mental health providers, but Covid has really helped amplify the need.
“I know a lot of mental health care providers have long waiting lists, months and months to get into a facility,” McNeil said. “As we know, one in five Americans has a mental health or substance abuse disorder. That tells you how many people need help. If we can bring in nurse practitioners in the field, we can increase their access to mental health care.Especially in underserved rural areas.That is our main goal with this program.
As a family nurse and psychology nurse practitioner, McNeil said it’s common to see someone with a general problem and then realize they need help, mentally. Without the knowledge on how to handle this situation, the patient may not get the help they need.
“Someone will have physical illness and mental illness,” McNeil said. “It’s important that we screen these patients for depression and anxiety so that we can get them the help they need, quickly.”
Registered registered nurses can now apply for the MSN Concentration – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, as well as the Family Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Education concentrations, for fall 2022 intake.