Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse TechNology Enhanced Residency (PARTNER) Program

Sponsor/Type: The Duke Endowment
Project Period: 01/01/2021 – 12/31/2023


Behavioral health (BH) disorders represent a significant burden in the United States (US) and South Carolina (SC) populations at 18.6% for adults and up to13%-20% of children. SC data in 2016, reports a higher prevalence of depression among lower-income residents

SC is a mostly rural, economically disadvantaged state, with 21% of its population living in rural communities. Access to BH services is limited due to capacity, equity, and cost. Rural patients often lack private or public transportation, but many travel over 100 miles for mental health consultations, crisis intervention/ stabilization, and follow-up care coordination appointments. Minimal childcare options and a lack of qualified BH providers lead to scarce appointment availability and delays in care; delayed care can lead to a BH crisis, resulting in costly treatment in the acute care setting.

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the healthcare system to reinvent care delivery models that accommodate social distancing. Meeting mental health needs for patients in rural communities will require cost-effective and innovative solutions, where mental health specialists and primary care providers partner to offer continuity of care services in the communities where patients live, work and play.

Embedding BH clinicians into the primary care setting is a best practice strategy, but rurality and a shortage of mental health experts is a significant barrier for rural and at-risk communities. Seventeen of SC's 46 counties are without a practicing psychiatrist, and 22 of the 46 have fewer than ten psychiatrists.

The need for affordable mental health services in SC has never been greater and services provided by Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Practitioners (PMH-NPs) are a valid, reliable, and clinically effective strategy for treating mental health. The proposed Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse TechNology Enhanced Residency (PARTNER) Program will deploy psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMH-NP) and train post-graduate PMH-NPs in an innovative telehealth residency for psychiatric mental health APRNs; the only such program in the country.

The PARTNER program will support workforce readiness for PMH-NPs using a continuity of care tele-mental health model for rural primary care integration to increase accessibility while lowering cost. This formal post-graduate residency training program will offer high-quality and effective care to patients and a transition path for new, board-certified PMH-NPs to advance their proficiency.

PARTNER will leverage MUSC's current Telepsychiatry Outpatient Program (described program) to optimize outpatient psychiatry services for patients in SC's “Promise Zone” which includes Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties. The Promise Zone is in SC’s southernmost tip of the state, located west of I-95, and suffers from severe poverty, economic, and health disparities disadvantages. Beaufort county, which is just outside the Promise Zone, also suffers the same challenges with high numbers of mental health referrals to the MUSC OT program (39%) and will be included in PARTNER.

For more information contact
Simon Chinnis