NMU, SVSU collaborate on nurse program

In this undated photo provided by Northern Michigan University, NMU nursing students are shown in training. (Photos courtesy of NMU)

MARQUETTE — To aid with a shortage of nurses in the Upper Peninsula, Northern Michigan University and Saginaw Valley State University have teamed up to expand affordable educational opportunities for nursing students.

Through the BRIDGE UP program, SVSU is offering its psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner training in collaboration with NMU to 31 U.P. nurse practitioners annually. The program is funded with a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources & Services Administration.

“There’s an extreme shortage of professionals in the Upper Peninsula who can provide mental health care and addiction treatment or manage medication,” said Amy Poirier, PMHNP clinical coordinator at NMU. “Upon completion of this program, graduates will be eligible to take the certification exam and provide all of these services. The program involves online classwork through SVSU, clinical placements with various patient populations in the U.P. and hands-on workshops at NMU to reduce travel requirements.”

The BRIDGE UP project aims to expand access to mental health and addiction treatment for the people who need it, while also addressing the pressing need to reduce health inequities in rural Michigan. SVSU and NMU have established two academic-practice partnerships — with Suunta Integrative Health and Great Lakes Recovery Centers, both in the U.P. — to provide students with a longitudinal clinical immersion.

Suunta’s owner, Melissa Copenhaver, is a PMHNP, licensed family nurse practitioner, clinical social worker and certified mental health interactive medicine provider. She said mental health disorders are increasing and about one in five adults currently lives with mental illness.

In this undated photo provided by Northern Michigan University, NMU nursing students are shown in training. (Photos courtesy of NMU)

“Based on population numbers, it is estimated that the U.P. needs about 75 full-time equivalent psychiatrists; however, there are under 10 FTEs available,” Copenhaver said. “It’s not likely that it will be possible to recruit the additional providers needed. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners can play a key role in improving access to mental health care and health outcomes. The partnership between NMU and SVSU will recruit nurse practitioners from the UP for SVSU’s psychiatric nurse practitioner post-master’s program, which has a focus on rural health.”

Great Lakes Recovery Center CEO Greg Toutant said his organization is “fortunate to be a part of a highly needed community partnership with NMU and SVSU.”

“The Upper Peninsula has a significant shortage of mental health providers and this important project will help to develop added expertise and improved access for integrated avenues of care,” he said. “Our role as a community preceptor site providing practicum opportunities is a small way we can help to strengthen the future workforce providing a spectrum of behavioral health care services in the U.P.”

As part of the BRIDGE UP project, SVSU has developed an interprofessional rural health equity micro-credential to equip students “to advocate for and deliver high-quality, cost-effective, equitable health care to improve health care outcomes and increase client satisfaction,” according to an SVSU press release. Through a combination of classwork, simulation and clinical immersion, students work as part of an interprofessional team with social work and occupational therapy students within a social determinants of health framework.

“This innovative collaboration between Saginaw Valley State University and Northern Michigan University brings vital resources and support to underserved populations,” said Kathleen Schachman, Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Professor of Nursing at SVSU, in a release. “By expanding educational opportunities for advanced practice nurses, we aim to bridge gaps in patient care and empower nurse practitioners to meet the specific needs of their communities. … We expect to increase the number, diversity and geographic distribution of nurse practitioners with specialized psychiatric mental health preparation. The impact will be far-reaching, transforming lives and creating a more inclusive and resilient healthcare system for all.”

The BRIDGE UP project signifies a significant step toward improving behavioral health care access in rural Michigan. By equipping nurse practitioners with specialized training and fostering interprofessional collaboration, SVSU and NMU intend to reduce health disparities and enhance the well-being of individuals and communities in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan.

SVSU’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program offers both post-graduate certificate and doctoral degree tracks.

For more information on BRIDGE UP, contact NMU’s Poirier at ampoirie@nmu.edu or 906-227-2826 or SVSU’s Schachman at kaschach@svsu.edu or 989-964-4339.


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