Houston Chronicle Sunday

Pandemic-induced mental health crises bolster demand for behavioral, psychiatri­c nurses

- By Jennifer Kimrey

… hospitals are having to work to fill a gap in services by expanding facilities and hiring more nurses to treat the increasing number of people who are struggling with stressand grief-related mental health issues from the pandemic.

Some of the most integral roles within a health care team are those of the nursing staff, who fulfill a critical role in providing patients and their families the highest level of care, as well as a key means of emotional support.

Today, a mounting population requiring care for COVID-19 infections, vaccinatio­ns and pandemicre­lated mental health issues is bolstering the need for qualified and charismati­c nurses.

Some of the most indemand nursing positions today are those in psychiatri­c and mental health care. A recent report in Stat (www.statnews.com) revealed that some centers are seeing behavioral health calls increase by 40% to 50% during the pandemic.

“Current daily headlines highlight impact of loss of connection and overall stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social issues. Psychiatri­c nurses are uniquely qualified to assist and address the increasing need for mental health within the community,” said Elizabeth Maree, chief nursing officer at Harris County Psychiatri­c Center at UTHealth. “Psychiatri­c nurses are in huge demand. There was a shortage before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of people now needing

help to deal with the pandemic has made that shortage even more acute.”

According to a recent report from the CDC, through most of 2020, “the proportion of pediatric emergency admissions for mental problems, like panic and anxiety, was up by 24% for young children and 31% for adolescent­s compared to the previous year.”

This means that hospitals are having to work to fill a gap in services by

expanding facilities and hiring more nurses to treat the increasing number of people who are struggling with stress- and griefrelat­ed mental health issues from the pandemic.

The UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Center, scheduled to open in February 2022, will be one such facility meeting the new demand, providing an additional 264 beds and expanding career opportunit­ies for psychiatri­c and mental health nurses.

Nurses are also needed

simply to meet the demand for COVID-19 patient care and vaccinatio­n distributi­on.

“Currently, we see a huge demand for nurses is to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The drive is due to vaccinatio­n opening up to the general public and the hope to lessen the effects of COVID-19,” said Jessica Randolph, division director at Team1Medic­al Staffing, a health care recruitmen­t agency.

Randolph noted that compensati­on for COVIDrelat­ed

nursing positions is higher than non-COVID-19 roles.

“For COVID relief-related positions, the pay for a licensed vocational nurse, or LVN, is $28 to $32 an hour. The pay for a registered nurse, or RN, is $38 to $47, based on experience. An RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, will typically make between $3 to $10 more per hour than an RN without a BSN,” Randolph said. “For non-COVID relief positions, LVN pay is $21 to $28 an hour, and RN pay is $32 to $47. Benefits vary from employer to employer and can include sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses, 401(k), pension plans, partially or fully paid health benefits and tuition reimbursem­ent.”

Nurses who have completed a BSN and those with advanced preparatio­n and skills such as psychiatri­c nurse practition­ers are in high demand in the Houston area to meet the growing need for provision of mental health services.

“Of course, experience­d acute care RNs with their BSN are needed in all hospitals. Recently, a national shortage of perioperat­ive nurses has also been reported. But there is a major need for psychiatri­c and mental health nurses and nurse practition­ers in Texas,” said Diane Santa Maria, dean at the Cizik School of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

 ?? Shuttersto­ck ?? Some of the most in-demand nursing positions today are those in psychiatri­c and mental health care. Some centers are seeing behavioral health calls increase by 40% to 50% during the pandemic.
Shuttersto­ck Some of the most in-demand nursing positions today are those in psychiatri­c and mental health care. Some centers are seeing behavioral health calls increase by 40% to 50% during the pandemic.

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