January 2012 Member Profile
Sharon Katz, MSN FPMH-NP, PMH-CNS, BC (NP BC pending)

Sharon Katz is an advanced practice psychiatric nurse in Pennsylvania for whom the ability to work within the full scope of her practice is central:  “I have always taken my commitment to psychiatric nursing personally, and work to provide what is needed in my community to decrease the obstacles to good mental health care and recovery,” she says. “Advocating for the clinical role, recognition, and scope of practice of the psychiatric advanced practice nurse is essential to my every day practice.” Having just finished a PMH NP program at the University of Pennsylvania, Katz will be sitting for the exam in a couple of weeks.  She is Executive Director of a company she founded in 1995 that provides “holistic mental health care, primarily psychotherapy, to psychiatric and medically compromised patients based on biopsychosocial and family systems theories.” She employs psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed professional counselors in her office.

Katz is also a past president of the APNA Pennsylvania Chapter. While serving as president, she worked to “enhance the recognition of the scope of practice for the PMH-CNS” in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the effort was unsuccessful. She realized the need for more expansive change, not just within her state: “With the number of competent psychiatrists shrinking as stigma and need shifted, the solution needed to be through national change.”

Thus her involvement with the APNA/ISPN LACE Task Force is no surprise. As a member of the task force, she provided the group with a perspective of a CNS in clinical practice. “With the changes in the national consensus [model]…we were charged with realigning our training within our scope of practice to enhance the consistency of titles,” she explains. “In short, we needed to preserve the CNS skills that are valuable, integrate the neuroscience and important behavioral perspectives into the unification of the scope of practice, and decide on the title that best solidified these professional skills.”  The LACE Committee’s work involved examining the pros and cons of every aspect of the issue, reviewing statistical evidence, and looking towards the future while also remaining cognizant of current psych nurses and issues. Of this experience, Katz says, “the puzzle remains; there are significant shortages within our profession, both psychiatric prescribers and educators, at a time when we are aging. Recruiting for the future while enhancing faculty (and with a diminished workforce) will remain a challenge, but [an] essential [one]. While the change from CNS to NP is significant and a personal decision, the economic potential and ease of recognition as psychiatric practitioners on the state level would be advantageous.”

As for her own personal decision to go back to school, Katz was simply fulfilling a business need. The “lack of adequate coverage was limiting in my office,” she says, even though it sits just outside a city home to six medical schools. The wait for patients to see a psychiatrist was six weeks or more and she found that primary care providers were “hesitant to prescribe for our more severely mentally ill patients, even with guidance.” Having a PMH-NP “would enable me to not only prescribe for my clinical practice,” but also to “continue to demonstrate the PMH-APRN model of psychiatry, balancing traditional methods, psychotherapy, and holistic approaches.” After looking into a variety of online and in-class programs, she opted to return to the University of Pennsylvania, as their program best suited her learning style. In addition, Penn’s program “offered a ‘gap analysis’ to determine the course selections needed to complete the NP requirements.” She took five courses and had 250 hours of clinical, choosing to serve as a consult liaison at the major hospital in her community. The setting “integrated my medical psych base and improved my assessment and treatment skills in acute settings.” In describing her overall experience, she says:

“I believe psychiatric advanced practice nurses have a valuable presence in the mental health workforce, as we provide psychological services that enhance adaptation and resilience through psychotherapeutic techniques as well as psychopharmacology.  Our value is increasing within mental health organizations that contract for behavioral health services.  In incorporating a balanced holistic mental health approach we eliminate fragmentation while including a neuroscientific approach to healing. Returning to an academic setting gave me a comprehensive updated appreciation of these advances, and how they applied to my clinical work.”

Katz embraced her time in the PMH-NP program, seeing it as an opportunity to hone her psychiatric nursing skills. In the end she got even more out of the experience – a renewed appreciation for and a broadened perspective of psychiatric mental health nursing.