First Recipient of VHCF Nurse Practitioner Scholarship

First Recipient of Nurse Practitioner Scholarship Already Using “Critical” New  Skills To Help Patients with Behavioral Health Issues

Carol Jo Osinski

Gloucester, VA – Carol-Jo Osinski currently practices at Gloucester-Mathews Care Clinic (GMCC), providing care to uninsured and medically uninsured patients.  Carol-Jo was inspired to become a Nurse Practitioner and work in a health safety net setting by her mother who was a nurse for 42 years and a free clinic volunteer.

“My mother and I would talk about the underlying issues of patients that we would encounter each day in free clinics,” Carol-Jo said. “The issues were stress, depression, anxiety and a lack of support systems.”

Basic mental health issues such as anxiety and depression rank in the top three diagnoses in Virginia’s health care safety net. Carol-Jo regularly sees depression and bi-polar disorders that she doesn’t feel adequately prepared to treat. She is not alone. Many primary care physicians and nurse practitioners do not feel comfortable addressing mental health conditions due to lack of training. As a result, many mental health conditions go undiagnosed.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners (Psych NPs) are particularly valuable, because they are trained to prescribe the psychotropic medicines that are often essential to successful treatment. There are only 146 licensed Psych NPs currently practicing in Virginia—less than one per locality. The demand for more is high as there is a growing realization about the important link between physical and mental health.

Carol-Jo is the first recipient of a new Psych NP Scholarship Program initiated by the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) to increase the number of these important mental health professionals. It will equip health safety net NPs like Carol-Jo to help their patients.

“This is critical because many of our patients have behavioral health issues that must be addressed before can be full engage in their plan of care,” said Kay Bradley, Executive Director of GMCC.

The scholarship underwrites all tuition and required fees for Nurse Practitioners like Carol-Jo who work or volunteer in the health care safety net and return to school for a post-graduate degree in the behavioral health specialty. In return, they must agree to serve uninsured and medically underserved Virginians who are patients in health safety net clinics like GMCC for two years.

Carol-Jo was accepted into Shenandoah University’s Psychiatric Mental-Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program and began taking courses during the fall 2014 semester. GMCC supports Carol-Jo’s course of study by providing a flexible schedule as needed. It ultimately plans to place her in her new role as a Psych NP.  Her father and her sister are also cheering her on.

Carol-Jo has already begun to put her skills into practice including using motivational interviewing techniques when she meets with patients.

“These scholarships will have a significant impact as they add expertise in behavioral health to community health centers and free clinics across the state,” said VHCF Executive Director Deborah Oswalt.

The Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (VAFCC) is helping out, too. It provides scholarships to recipients up to $1,000 to help pay for mileage, gas, hotel costs, books and other miscellaneous supplies. Those who become Psych NPs through the scholarships must agree to use their new knowledge and skills for two years in Virginia’s health care safety net. VHCF aims to award 10 scholarships.

For more information about the scholarships, click here.