Found in Translation: Penn Nursing Bridges the Mind/Body Divide
June 7, 2012
A recent $5 million gift from University Trustee and Penn Nursing Overseer, Carol Ware, Nu'73, will establish the Carol E. Ware Professorship in Mental Health Nursing. The gift also endows a research fund and supports fellowships to bring more of the best and brightest students to the vital field of mental health nursing.
Ware's philanthropy and service have shaped Penn Nursing
in fundamental ways over the years. She helped to launch renovations
to the School of Nursing with a lead gift in 2004 and continued her
generosity over each of the five phases of the project. She aslo
established the Marjorie O. Rendell Endowed Chair in Health Transitions
and contributes to a variety of endowed scholarships. She has been a
member of Penn Nursing's Board of Overseers since 1992 and has centrally
engaged in a number of volunteer efforts including the School's
Undergraduate Education Committee and the Friends of Penn Nursing.
The Carol E. Ware endowed professorship will advance the study and practice mental health care at Penn and beyond, making stories such as this one, below, of improved patient outcomes, more prevalent.
“Impossible to treat for cancer until seen by Psych.” That note stood out on the medical chart that
Linden Spital, Nu’10, GNu’12, reviewed as she prepared for her patient consults
in the Abramson Cancer Center’s Psycho-Oncology department. “I’m looking forward to working with this
patient and with the oncology team,” Linden said. “I want us to get to a point where we can
make her treatment work.”
As a student in Penn Nursing’s graduate Psychiatric-Mental
Health Nurse Practitioner program, Linden is in the perfect position to make
treatments work for this patient and countless others who face concurrent
physical and mental illnesses. In the
process, she is helping to forge a new model of care for an underserved
“Studies show,” says Nancy Hanrahan, Dr. Lenore H. Kurlowicz Memorial Term Associate Professor in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, “that people who present primarily
with a mental illness are underdiagnosed and undertreated to the degree that
this population dies an average of 25 years earlier than the general population
from illnesses that are treatable.”
Linden Spital, Nu'10, GNu'12, with Penn Nursing professor, Nancy Hanrahan,
whose research focuses on designing optimal models of psychiatric nursing care.
Currently, Hanrahan is heading an interdisciplinary team comprised of faculty in
the Schools of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Social Policy & Practice, and
Arts and Sciences, and the Perleman School of Medicine. By creating a virtual
model of the mental health care landscape in Philadelphia - its patients, care
services, and agencies - the team's goal is to identify opportunities that will
improve care and realize efficiencies in an $850 million system that serves
500,000 people in a year.
Compounding the problem is the stigma of psychiatric
Hanrahan notes, “As a
society, we are still in the dark ages about mental illness.
We’re scared of it.
And we think that everybody who gets it will
never get better.”
As a result, walls go
up in society and in treatment settings.
But because Penn Nursing takes a holistic approach to what
Hanrahan calls “integrated illnesses,” the prognosis is improving. Graduate nursing students gain the requisite
medical knowledge through rigorous coursework in advanced anatomy and
physiology, neuroscience, and psychopharmacology. Classes in the theory and practice of psychotherapy
and cognitive behavior strategies prepare them to intervene in treating common
problems such as depression and anxiety as well as more serious behavioral and
psychotic disorders. And clinical
experiences train them to evaluate, diagnose, treat, prescribe and advocate for
the whole person, body and mind.
“With expertise in both the medical and psychological
aspects of patient care, psychiatric nurse practitioners serve as translators
between the patient and the and the physician,” says Hanrahan. “That allows us to bridge the divide between
the mental health and medical systems, and to work with patients, their
families and significant others and their providers to deliver the most
efficient and effective care.”
Speaking with the patient identified as “impossible to
treat,” Linden learned more about her specific needs. Then, translating between the patient and her
oncology providers, Linden reviewed treatment options to help the patient find
the one that worked best for her and would help her to reach her cancer
treatment goals. “She was amenable to one of the medication plans, and we
started her on it that afternoon, along with education and therapy. It
was a very positive outcome!”
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