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UT graduate students in nursing, pharmacy, nutrition, and exercise physiology are coming together to tackle a new health challenge facing the nation—a critical need for advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurses.

The students, part of the College of Nursing program called Recovery-Based Interprofessional Distance Education (RIDE), are working as interprofessional teams to help clients at the Helen Ross McNabb Center live better. The program is funded by a three-year $1 million grant from Health Resources and Services Administration.

“They develop a plan for the clients that tackles wellness needs like diet, exercise, making friends, learning about medications, and smoking less,” said Lora Beebe, nursing professor and program chair.

The collaborative program is helping fill a national gap in advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurses—the smallest nursing specialty in the nation despite an increased demand for mental health services as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

“The act expanded mental health and substance use disorder services, so almost overnight there became an immense need to prepare practitioners with excellent team skills,” said Beebe.

RIDE is unique in that its goal is for individuals to improve their overall health and wellness instead of merely treating symptoms.

“With this approach, the practitioner serves more of a support role in helping the person overcome or make sense of their illness,” said Beebe. “This method requires the expertise of many types of professions—nursing, pharmacy, nutrition, and exercise physiology—working together to help the patient live better.”

Students are learning how the care they provide complements that of the other professions.

“I think it has been and will continue to be very beneficial for all of us as healthcare professionals to learn more about each other and what everyone’s specific roles are on the team,” said Rachel Renwick, a pharmacy graduate student.

“I feel like working together with all the different areas of concentration makes us stronger as a unit and we are able to approach treatment holistically instead of treating just one area that an individual may be dealing with,” said Adedeji Adejoke, a nursing graduate student.

RIDE is offered online or in a blended format so it can be accessed by more students. Currently, five of the total eighteen students are from outside Tennessee and from as far away as California. The program is an eight-week rotation which also includes a series of synchronous, computer-based modules covering interprofessional practice and recovery-based care. The modules feature a series of six simulated patient video scenarios to help students prepare for the in-person patient care days at the Helen Ross McNabb Center, the program’s partner clinical site in Knoxville.

For more information about the RIDE program, visit the program website.

C O N T A C T:

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460,