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Developing a CNS Role to Meet the Mental Health Needs of the Underserved

White, Jane H. D.N.Sc., R.N., C.S.


The purpose of this article is to describe a clinical nurse specialist program that prepares psychiatric-mental health nurses for positions in today's mental health care system. Recently, there has been a national increase in psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs and a decrease in psychiatric-mental health-clinical nurse specialist programs. We faced the dilemma that many psychiatric-mental health nurse faculties face in this climate of mental health care delivery changes: how to best prepare psychiatric-mental health nurses for advanced practice. Because of our long history of preparing clinical nurse specialists, we believed the role was a viable one. The clinical nurse specialist role also fit with our university's mission and our beliefs regarding the importance of providing care for underserved populations. The role of the community mental health-clinical nurse specialist is described, and the economic, demographic, and mental health system changes that influenced the development of the community mental health-clinical nurse specialist role are explored. The curriculum and the impact of the program are described and evaluated. Finally, implications regarding the need and the viability of this new role in both psychiatric-mental health nursing and in other specialties as we care for clients in the community are presented.

JANE H. WHITE has been on the faculty at Catholic University for 19 years. In addition to teaching in the master's and doctoral programs, she has maintained a part-time psychotherapy practice for the same amount of time. She has numerous publications and completed research projects on eating disorders. Developing, obtaining funding for, and directing this advanced practice PMHN program (CMH-CNS) has been one of her most rewarding accomplishments.

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