Mental Health and Primary Care: A Critical Intersection
Nurse practitioners (NP) are core components to the healthcare team and are more often in primary care provider roles throughout the United States. As primary care providers, NPs can utilize their role as patient advocate, educator, and clinician to comprehensively care for both physical and mental healthcare needs. Mental health and psychosocial morbidities are now surpassing physical health issues, including asthma and diabetes. Several factors contribute to this shift, such as family instability and malfunctioning, stigma associated with mental health, access to care and reimbursement issues, lack of screening, and genetics. The long-standing traumatic impacts from the COVID-19 global crisis, including isolation, loss of financial resources, and overall disruption to life pre-pandemic will be investigated for years to come. Experts have warned that the mental-health effects from COVID-19 will be the “second pandemic” (Owings-Fonner, 2020).
Meanwhile, there is a growing, critical shortage of mental health specialists, especially in child and adolescent psychiatry, with less than < 8,000 providers nationwide, which significantly impedes the ability to meet mental health needs across the nation (Block, 2011; Hornor, 2015; Riddle, 2016). Primary care providers have continued to meet and fill this need as mental health severity has increased over the last decades. Primary care NPs are ideally suited to assist with many of these needs based on their extensive knowledge base and long-term relationships with families. Several national governing and professional bodies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AFP), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) recognize the need to integrate these core essentials of mental health management to ongoing licensing and certification to practice in the field.
Goddard, A., & Jakub, S. A. (2023). Mental health and primary care: A Critical Intersection. In S. M. DeNisco (Ed.), Role development for the nurse practitioner (3rd ed., pp. 131-154). Jones & Bartlett Learning.