Tackling the Psychiatry Shortage: What We're Doing and What We've Learned

Psychiatrists are in short supply these days, and the shortage is expected to worsen in the years ahead. We're tackling this shortage with a variety of strategies, including:

  • Telepsychiatry
  • Alternative prescribers and collaborative prescriber teams

We know: it's easy to be wary of telepsychiatry and alternative prescribers. We had our reservations, too. But, what we’ve found after implementing these approaches is that these methods are efficient, effective, and even a little bit exciting for clients, staff, and psychiatrists to use.

We interviewed two different front line teams at Telecare and asked them:

  1. What were their concerns or challenges before leaping in and trying this approach?
  2. What were their most interesting or surprising discoveries in the process?
  3. What advice would they give to others who were thinking about implementing such an approach?

Telepsychiatry

                        Telepsychiatry

                        Telepsychiatry

Our Morongo Basin Crisis-Walk In Center in San Bernardino County, CA, uses telepsychiatry to make sure clients in crisis get the immediate care they need. The program is in a rural area near Joshua Tree National Park and far away from emergency psychiatric services. Administrator Susie Petro and LVN Mindy Hunsinger helped bring this approach to life.

Click the play button to listen to the full length interview (3 minutes), or skim the highlights below:

  • "I believe health care, in general, is going towards this. I believe more doctors are learning about it and joining the process. I think more doctors are wanting to do it," said Susie Petro.  
  • "What I do over telepsychiatry with a telepsychiatrist is the same thing I would do with a psychiatrist if the psychiatrist was sitting in the office with me. There’s not much change except for I’m looking at the computer screen," said Mindy Hunsinger, LVN, who works with the telepsychiatrist daily. 

Alternative Prescribers

                 alternative prescribers

                 alternative prescribers

In an acute inpatient setting, we need 24-hour access to psychiatrists and prescribers, which can be difficult for a number of reasons. Our Stanislaus Psychiatric Health Facility in Stanislaus County, CA, tackled this challenge by incorporating alternative prescribers and a collaborative prescriber team to deliver the appropriate treatment and maintain continuity of care among their patients. By utilizing the skills of a Physician Assistant (PA), the psychiatrist is able to make better use of his time while still being involved in the overall quality of care.

Click the play button to listen to the full length interview (4 minutes), or skim the highlights below:

  • "You need to keep an open mind in terms of how you deliver care, especially psychiatric care, to the patient," said Dr. Walter Lampa, psychiatrist at Stanislaus PHF. "We have to sometimes think outside the box, especially when resources are limited and a lot of consumers need that resource."
  • "Since we’ve started this model, I’ve received a few phone calls from other administrators and other companies trying to figure out what we’re doing in our facility and how they can solve similar problems," said Talal Asaleem, administrator at Stanislaus PHF.