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June 21, 2019

SVSU program empowers nurses supporting patients suffering from mental health conditions, substance use addiction

Schachman, KathleenDemand is high for a new Saginaw Valley State University academic program designed for advanced practice nurses passionate about caring for patients suffering from mental health conditions or substance use addiction.


In May, SVSU enrolled the first 16 students — all certified nurse practitioners — in its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, created by the university in response to shifting medical care demands caused in part by the opioid epidemic.


Less than two months after the first classes began, more and more certified nurse practitioners have expressed interest in joining the program, said Kathleen Schachman, the initiative’s coordinator and educator.


“We have heard from many people who have expressed interest in this program,” said Schachman, SVSU’s Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Chair in Nursing. “We knew there was a high demand. Since we started the program, the demand has exceeded expectations.”


Schachman said students who complete the program will be certified on how best to utilize resources and telehealth — a form of medical practice that in part utilizes telecommunication technology modified for health care-related response — to treat patients both in-person and from afar. For instance, the curriculum will address how to respond to patients living in rural settings, where medical care facilities are scarce and patients often are unwilling to travel outside their community to seek help.


“By combining didactic, simulation, and clinical immersion experiences, graduates of the program will have the expertise to effectively manage the complexity of both medical and psychiatric conditions, with a unique focus on addictions,” she said.


“In rural communities — where access to care is an obstacle — having a provider with expert knowledge and skill to integrate these aspects of healthcare should lead to improved clinical outcomes by making mental health care more available, and by reducing stigma associated with mental health and addictions treatment.”


Schachman and SVSU have experience in delivering the type of medical care taught in the university’s new post-graduate certification program. She helps oversee Bay Community Health Clinic, which is a Bay City-based medical facility operated jointly by SVSU, the Bay County Department of Health, and Bay-Arenac Behavioral Health. There, staff and student interns respond to local residents, including a growing number of individuals dealing with opioid addictions. The clinic also practices telehealth with patients residing in rural communities outside Bay City.


Nurses enrolled in SVSU’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program engage in exclusively-online studies over the course of a four-semester schedule.


Information for the program will be available at