CON receives support for new tele-mental health nurse residency program

Digital Team Writer
December 14, 2020
Man using a computer for a telehealth visit

The MUSC College of Nursing, in partnership with the MUSC Telepsychiatry Outpatient Program (OTP), received a $685,000 grant from The Duke Endowment to fund a tele-mental health residency program for psychiatric mental health (PMH) nurses for three years.

In addition to training PMH nurses, the Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Technology Enhanced Residency (PARTNER) program also will deliver cost-effective mental health services while increasing the mental health provider workforce that is desperately needed in the rural areas of South Carolina.

The new program will expand on MUSC's existing telepsychiatry program using PMH advanced practice registered nurse practitioners and PHM doctoral students to participate in the structured training through advanced clinical management and psychosocial interventions. Additionally, the residency program will offer high-quality and effective care to patients and provide a transition path for new, board-certified PMH nurse practitioners to advance their proficiency.

Mental health nurse practitioners have long been deemed an affordable, reliable, and clinically effective strategy for treating mental health. In collaboration with the S.C. Telehealth Alliance and its network of rural primary care practices, the one-of-a-kind program will begin deploying PMH nurse practitioners and training post-graduates in early 2021. This innovative telehealth program will be initially offered in high behavioral health services in desert communities in Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties.

The PARTNER team, led by MUSC administrative and faculty experts from the Office of Telehealth, College of Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, and College of Nursing, meets the need of the moment execrated by the pandemic as the health care system to rethinks and reinvent care delivery models. According to Joy Lauerer, DNP, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, PARTNER co-director and lead faculty of the PMHNP program in the MUSC College of Nursing, mental health care has faced significant challenges in the past, and the coronavirus pushed further beyond those limits.

"Around 21% of South Carolina's population live in rural communities, and access to behavioral health services is minimal. Also, COVID-19 has harmed the mental well-being of many, especially those in rural communities who are at an increased risk of mental health issues. Through PARTNER, we can bring needed mental health resources to either the home or a nearby clinic for the most rural and disadvantaged consumer," said Lauerer, a board-certified psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialist.

Children, adolescents and adults will be served in this new, rural telehealth program.

Rural patients often lack transportation, with many traveling over 100 miles for mental health consultations, crisis intervention/stabilization, and follow-up care appointments.

"We are excited to announce The Duke Endowment's support for PARTNER, and their commitment to a vision that ensures access to high-quality health care services to all South Carolinians," said Debbie Bryant, DNP, R.N., FAAN, PARTNER co-director and associate dean of practice in the MUSC College of Nursing. "Further, I am hopeful opening a pipeline of future mental health care professionals will lead to significant positive outcomes for our state."

Also leading this project is Angie Powers, DNP, a board certified psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialist. Powers is a College of Nursing instructor and co-director of the Ralph H. Johnson VA medical center, PMHNP residency program.


Debbie Bryant, DNP, R.N., FAAN,
Joy Lauerer, DNP, APRN, PMHCNS-BC,
Angie Powers, DNP, CNP, PMHNP-BC,