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2022 APNA Award for Excellence in Practice – APRN

Kristen Bomboy, DNP, APRN, PNP

Like many states in the U.S., Oklahoma is grappling with a critical shortage of mental health providers, currently meeting just 28% of the need for services. Thankfully Kristen Bomboy is making a significant positive difference, working in a wide variety of ways to transform patient access to mental health care within the state.

According to Dr. Bomboy, “There are many urgent needs in the communities I serve – including that much of the population does not have access to dependable housing or consistent access to cellular services. While the state expanded access to Medicaid last year, the number of patients seeking treatment has increased dramatically, shining an even brighter light on Oklahoma’s ongoing shortage of mental health providers.”

An east coast transplant, Dr. Bomboy moved to Oklahoma to begin work as a PMH Nurse Practitioner (NP) and went on to complete her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

She currently works for Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, providing treatment to individuals living with severe mental illness in predominantly rural and often socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Because many also struggle with other comorbid conditions – rates of obesity and heart disease in Oklahoma are among the highest in the nation – Dr. Bomboy drew on her doctoral work related to metabolic indices to inform the integration of metabolic risk assessment within her practice setting. In addition, she expanded the number of RNs on staff to incorporate care for patient medical needs alongside their ongoing mental health treatment.

Because most of her patients come predominantly from underserved areas, Dr. Bomboy strives to improve engagement with treatment. One way she has accomplished this is by expanding her center’s outreach to patients, increasing the number of touch points they receive between appointments from counselors, case managers, wellness coaches, and substance use recovery support services.

Dr. Bomboy says, “My passion is to improve patient access to care and keep patients actively engaged in their ongoing care – that’s what drives me forward. It’s very important to be able to see patients living more productive lives, functioning better and ultimately, feeling much better about themselves.”

In response to the state’s shortage of mental health providers, Dr. Bomboy joined Oklahoma City University’s (OCU) new PMH-NP Program as a part-time Clinical Instructor. She worked with her academic colleagues to advance the approval of OCU’s Psych NP program, and the first cohort started Spring 2021.

As a faculty member, Dr. Bomboy currently mentors approximately ten students and encourages them to stay in Oklahoma upon graduation to help reduce the state’s shortage of mental health providers. Kristen also works to serve as a connector – linking students with other professionals in the field for mentorship and job placement after graduation – smoothing the students’ transition from their academic program into practice.

A tireless advocate, Dr. Bomboy is deeply involved in efforts to advance state legislation to expand the scope of practice for PMH nurses. Bomboy continues to conduct outreach to state legislators to educate them about the mental health needs across the state and encourages legislators to pass proposed legislation to move PMH nursing prescriptive authority forward. Progress has been hindered as the proposed bills stall in the Oklahoma Senate.

Kristen’s drive to champion and expand PMH nursing permeates every facet of her work and is also on display in her active support of APNA as a member and APNA Oklahoma Chapter secretary. Her work is making a significant positive difference to patients, students, colleagues, and residents across the state of Oklahoma.

Her colleagues explain, “Kristen’s skill, drive, and determination to improve patient access to care is directly impacting Oklahoma communities – improving patient retention of employment, decreasing patient involvement with law enforcement, and improving patient’s family interactions.”