News & Press: Member Spotlight

Q&A with Shaina Neely, Meeting Mental Needs in Rural Areas

Wednesday, September 23, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Cusack
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NP Spotlight, Psych NP Shaina Neely from Texas Nurse Practitioners on Vimeo.

Shaina Neely is a dual certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. She is a practicing psychiatric nurse practitioner in Amarillo and an instructor in the PMHNP and FNP programs at West Texas A&M University.

Tell us about your current nurse practitioner role. Where do you work and what patient population do you serve?

A: I have a dual certification (family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner), and I use both every day. I mostly function as a psych NP alongside a wonderful psychiatrist and neurologist in a private practice office setting. We serve patients in 26 Texas Panhandle counties and five states, including New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

Many of our patients drive four hours one way just to see a psychiatrist. Even in our neighboring states, because our patients are from southern or rural regions of the state, they just don’t have easy access to a psychiatrist or a psych NP.

West Texas A&M just launched a new mental health program for nurse practitioners, and I know you’ve played a key role in getting this off the ground. Can you tell us a little bit more about the program?

A: I’m super excited that it’s up and running. There is a real need for mental health providers in the Texas Panhandle, so West Texas A&M is starting a post-master’s certificate and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program. The program begins next year, and the first cohort of PMHNPs will be ready to test and practice by May of 2022.

How are you helping to serve on the front lines of COVID-19 right now?

A: With the stress that came with COVID-19 and not being able to go out or gather with friends, we’ve seen a huge influx in the number of patients that need access – including our own patients who are already in our private practice. Throughout the pandemic and throughout the shutdown, we have continued to practice and stay fully open. We’re using telemedicine and other platforms so our patients, especially the elderly, aren’t having to expose themselves and come in. Right now in Amarillo, there is a three month wait to see a psychiatrist or a psych NP. What we’ve done in our clinic is open up new time slots to accommodate these patients, and we’re able to get new patients in within two to three weeks – which is huge.

Can you share with us one of your patient success stories, or a time when a patient really inspired you?

A: I think that’s why psychiatry is so rewarding because I see those stories all the time. I don’t know if there is just one story because my patients inspire me on a daily basis. There is such a stigma for patients with mental health conditions. For so many of them, they’ve gone through very painful histories and traumas in the past, yet they’re still pushing forward and giving back to the community and succeeding in life in many different ways. I also have patients who have suffered unimaginable loss. Right now, I have several patients who have lost loved ones due to COVD-19 or are having to be caregivers to someone who is not back to their normal function after being ill with COVID-19. It’s truly amazing to see what my patients overcome.

As a health care provider, what has been the biggest challenge or barrier you’ve experienced?

A: As a nurse practitioner, it’s the ability to practice to the full extent of our education. Especially in the psych community, not being able to prescribe Schedule II medications is a huge barrier to serving patients, especially our pediatric population. Right now in our area, some of our pediatric patients are driving to other cities just to see someone who is accepting pediatric mental health patients. There is a huge need to expand Schedule II authority to more providers in our area so families aren’t spending two to three hours in a car missing school just to get medication that will help their kids succeed in school.

What message would you share with other Texas policymakers and leaders as they continue to navigate access to care issues for mental health? How can they help providers like you?

I would encourage them to approve laws and regulations that allow us to practice to our fullest extent, especially in rural areas. As we know, there are so many provider shortages in Texas. Most physicians don’t want to move to the smaller, rural areas and practice there. If NPs had the ability to practice to our fullest extent, we could meet the need and people in rural areas could get the care that every Texan deserves.

What is your message for fellow nurse practitioners?

A: I would encourage them to get involved in their nurse practitioner associations both locally and statewide because it’s your association that represents the profession. Also, I’d say never stop learning. Healthcare changes day to day, so you really have you to stay on top of it to do the best for your patients.

When you’re not with patients or launching a new program, what do you do in your free time?

A: My hobbies are chasing my 15-year-old and my 11-year-old, who are both active in club and school sports. Often my husband and I are going in different directions getting them there. We’re also very involved in our church, and we are so happy to be back in church. It’s definitely something we’ve taken advantage of over the years, but it’s great to gather with people again.

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