PMHNP Alumni

Suzanne Tambasco '19

What’s your typical day like? 

A typical day begins with coffee. Lots of coffee. Joking aside… I usually start by looking at my patient list for the day, doing a quick chart review, and noting any high-risk patients (recent suicidal ideations/attempts/or inpatient discharges). This gives me an idea of where I may have flexibility with seeing any walk-ins or inpatient consults. 

In addition to seeing my scheduled patients, I manage inpatient STAR consults and see patients who are admitted to the hospital with a substance use disorder to discuss the STAR program and treatment options within STAR.

I manage the post-hospital follow-up scheduling for STAR patients or patients with substance use disorders that are interested in treatment within the STAR program. I collaborate daily with an interdisciplinary team to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding treatment for patients we share. There are also a number of quality improvement projects I am working on. 

What’s the best thing about your job?   

I love that I get enough time and resources for my patients. I have an hour for an intake, 30 minute follow-ups. We have a pharmacist who specializes in mental health medications that I can Teams message to discuss complicated cross titrations with or if I need a refresher on initiating a specific LAI.

I can easily refer patients for neuropsych testing, memory clinic, housing services, and so much more! I feel like I can provide the best care to my patients because of the numerous resources available at the VA. 

Fun Fact about where you work or your career:  

One of our treatment programs is called contingency management. Patients with stimulant or cannabis use disorders come in, complete a urine drug screen, and get to draw a prize ranging from $1 - $100 out of a fish bowl for each negative drug screen. I’ve had a few patients win the $100 prize and it’s really exciting to watch. The money comes in the form of a voucher for the gift shop here. One of my patients saved his vouchers over the 12 weeks of the program and he was able to buy a TV.  

How did CON prepare you for this role?   

The additional training for CBT, MI, and behavioral activation that I received over my time in the DNP program was invaluable. I was fortunate to be able to complete some clinical hours with Dr. Lauerer, and her ability to seamlessly weave therapy into a casual conversation was a phenomenal experience. There were a number of great clinical preceptors that helped with transitioning from being a student to a nurse practitioner.  

What's your best advice for a current CON DNP student?  

Get comfortable setting boundaries with patients and with the job. Patients want you to prescribe something you aren’t comfortable with. Let them know. It’s your license at the end of the day and you shouldn’t prescribe something you are not ok with prescribing. Does your work want you to shift to 15-minute follow-ups or try to reduce your admin time? Let them know that is not what you agreed upon when you were hired. You need a certain amount of time per visit to ensure patient safety as well as protect yourself from burnout.