URI, Bradley Hospital offer master’s degree with specialty in pediatric/adolescent mental health nursing

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KINGSTON, R.I. — February 17, 2010 — Citing a critical shortage of advanced practice nurses in pediatric mental health, the University of Rhode Island’s College of Nursing and Bradley Hospital are collaborating on a new master’s degree at the nation’s oldest neuropsychiatric child and adolescent hospital.

The graduate degree in child and adolescent psychiatric mental health nursing is one of seven master’s degrees offered by URI’s College of Nursing, and it marks the third hospital-based program offered by the College. The other two are at Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals, which along with Bradley, are Lifespan health care system partners.

For 30 years the College has offered a master’s degree with a psychiatric-mental health focus at its Kingston Campus location, but Ginette Ferszt, associate professor of nursing and coordinator of the new program, said a track with a focus on young people was needed.

The goal is to enroll the first class of 14 to 16 students in fall 2010. The 41-credit master’s degree will be offered at the East Providence hospital. Established in 1931, it continues to be a world leader in treatment, research and education in the area of child and adolescent mental health. While Bradley and other Lifespan system nurses have first preference for admission, the program is open to nurses from any other Rhode Island hospital, agency or school who possess a bachelor’s degree in nursing and meet the criteria for admission.

“The clinical demands on our nurses are very high, so having the ability to take classes on-site in a convenient, supportive and familiar environment is an unusual but important benefit,” said Susan Eagleson, chief nursing officer and director of quality oversight at Bradley Hospital. “When it comes to mental health treatment, children are more than just little adults. Bradley’s clinical team has the expertise to meet the unique needs of children and adolescents who are facing a mental health crisis, and we are excited to share this knowledge and experience with nurses participating in this program.”

Eagleson added that URI’s College of Nursing has extensive research experience and “is at the forefront of developing new knowledge in nursing. We’ve worked closely with the dean and the nurse leaders within the University to match our mission with the University of Rhode Island’s mission. Fortunately for all of us, Dr. Ferszt has developed a specialty program in our area of expertise and interests. It’s a natural match.”

“Graduates (of the new program) will be prepared to work in an advanced practice role, which will include emergency assessments and evaluations, prescribing and providing psychotherapy,” Ferszt said.

“We expect this program to have a major impact on waiting lists for in-patient services, and at community mental health centers. There is a huge gap in mental health care for children and adolescents.”

Ferszt said only a few hospital emergency rooms around the state have mental health nursing specialists on staff. “But in most cases, when a pediatric or adolescent patient enters the emergency room needing acute psychiatric or mental health services, there is no one available with a specialty in this area.”

Eagleson said Bradley has deep concerns about outpatient treatment options when patients leave the hospital.

“Our families often have unacceptably long waits after leaving the hospital to get an outpatient appointment from providers in their community, or they may have difficulty finding appropriate community-based mental health services for their children,” Eagleson said. “Bradley does everything it can to connect families with the services they need, but the shortage of child mental health practitioners can sometimes be a challenge in the continuity of care.”

Because advanced practice nurses can work as primary health care providers, they can help bridge this gap, Eagleson said.

Marge Paccione, director of the Department of Behavioral Education at Bradley Hospital, said the program draws its strength from the unique collaboration among URI, Bradley and Lifespan.

“An additional strength is the cohort of nurses who are passionate about learning more about child and adolescent psychiatry,” Paccione said. “That cohort will be a think tank and bring energy to the program. It should be very synergistic.”

The Lifespan Learning Institute also played a critical role in the development of this new program. Using expertise in education, professional development and work force skills training, the team provided leaders from URI and Bradley Hospital with essential support and guidance, including models based on Lifespan partnerships with other higher education and academic programs.

For information about the program, contact Ferszt at 401-874-5345 or by email, ggf@uri.edu.

About the URI College of Nursing

• ENROLLMENT—About 680 undergraduate students; about 120 graduate students

• OFFERS–programs leading to the bachelor of science, master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees, the only University in the state to offer bachelor’s to doctoral education.


• September 1945–Rhode Island State College (forerunner of URI) begins its nursing program with nine students.

• 1947–Division of Nursing established, Louisa White appointed director.

• 1950–School of Nursing created.

• 1960—College of Nursing established within the University.

• September 23, 1977—White Hall dedicated, the first building designed specifically for the College of Nursing.

About Bradley Hospital

Founded in 1931, Bradley Hospital was the nation’s first psychiatric hospital devoted exclusively for children and adolescents. It remains a nationally recognized center for children’s mental health care, training and research. A teaching hospital for The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Bradley Hospital offers a wide range of services for psychological, developmental and behavioral conditions, including inpatient, outpatient, residential and home-based treatment options.

Its research arm, the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center, brings together a multidisciplinary team of investigators working to advance our knowledge of children’s mental health through federally-funded research projects. Bradley Hospital also operates the Bradley School, a fully certified special education school. A private, not-for-profit hospital, Bradley Hospital is a member of the Lifespan health system.

Pictured above

BIG STEP FOR MENTAL HEALTH NURSING: University of Rhode Island College of Nursing and Bradley Hospital officials discuss the new master’s degree in child and adolescent psychiatric mental health nursing offered by URI at the East Providence hospital. From left are: Marge Paccione, director of the Department of Behavioral Education at Bradley Hospital; Ginette Ferszt, associate professor of nursing and coordinator of the new program; and Susan Eagleson, chief nursing officer and director of quality oversight at Bradley Hospital. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.