I write in response to recent coverage in The Elm about the search for a replacement for our retired Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMH-NPs). An Opinion piece on Aug. 30 and a follow up news article on Sept. 6 highlight what we all agree upon: that these professionals provide a valuable service to our students, and that some students depend significantly on their services in order to be successful at Washington College. It is my hope to provide more clarity about the current situation and the steps we have taken to address it.
First, one misunderstanding that I have heard is that the College no longer has counselors in Counseling Services. This is absolutely false, and our three full-time counselors (Director Miranda Altman, Ida Dacey, and John Fuller) continue to see students as they always have. The PMH-NPs who retired were each working one day a week primarily for medication management with students. Those are the professionals who retired, NOT our counselors.
The second myth is that we are currently doing no psychiatric medication management. In fact, our nurse practitioners can and will continue to prescribe certain psychiatric medications. It is only in the more complicated cases and cases where several medications must be managed when the PMH-NP is necessary.
The last perception that concerns me most is that somehow the College is not making mental health a priority and has not prioritized replacing our PMH-NPs. In fact, the exact opposite is true. From the moment that Lisa Marx, our Director of Health Services, was notified of the retirement of our two PMH-NPs, she has been tirelessly exploring every possibility that would provide personalized and effective psychiatric medication management. Hamstrung by the fact that there are very few practitioners in our area who provide these specialized services, and committed to the strong belief that the best solution is finding someone who can see our students face-to-face and provide close personal attention, Lisa has talked to dozens of professionals, tracked down every lead offered to us, and pursued every possibility. Between Lisa and her staff in Health Services, Dr. Miranda Altman and our two clinical counselors, and the support of President Landgraf, our commitment to our students’ health and mental health has never been greater.
As I write this, we believe we are very close to hiring a PMH-NP who is going to come to campus weekly and provide the same services offered in the past by our retired practitioners. In the meantime, the professionals in Health & Counseling continue to work with students individually to ensure that those with medication management needs get the attention and support they need. Our hope is that by mid-semester we will have a new PMH-NP in place.
I want to thank those of you who assisted in our swift search for a solution and trust that our students’ best interest is always the highest priority. We will let you know as soon as we have a new PMH-NP in place, and in the meantime, we encourage anyone with questions or concerns about their own situation to contact Health Services at 410-778-7261. My best for a healthy and successful year to everyone!
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students