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King University Announces New Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program

July 6, 2020

BRISTOL, Tenn., July 6, 2020 — In response to student requests and community need, King University’s School of Nursing has created a new Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program.

Applications are now open, with the program’s first cohort scheduled to begin in January 2021.

The program’s online format and small cohort size is designed to provide working adults with access to instructors and ongoing collaboration with peers, according to Tracy Slemp, DNP, dean of King’s School of Nursing.

“The presence of mental health providers bears a direct and positive effect on issues like the opioid crisis, community wellness, law enforcement, and veterans’ health,” Slemp said. “For many years, mental health services have typically been underfunded, and our current practitioners are overwhelmed. More certified professionals and services are needed, and we purposefully designed this program to reach students in a broad footprint throughout the Southeast.”

Slemp notes that the most commonly treated mental health issues include depression, anxiety, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and suicidal ideation. The program will train providers to treat such conditions across the lifespan of patients, from children and adolescents to adults and geriatrics, in a number of settings including hospitals, doctor’s offices, and community health locations.

“If community members can’t find care, or can’t afford care, they delay care,” Slemp said. “Then, when they suddenly find themselves in a crisis situation and need immediate help, the burden typically falls to first responders or emergency departments. We want to increase the availability of care so that more community members have expanded access and consistent care, which contributes to an overall increase in the quality of life.”

While the new practitioner program was not developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Slemp says this is an ideal time to expand access to care.

“There’s been an overall increase in anxiety and depression related to the uncertainty of the pandemic, and the resulting isolation from friends and family,” she said. “If conditions like depression can be identified and treated earlier, rather than later, it improves our lifespan and has beneficial effects overall.”

The five-semester, master’s-level degree program includes coursework in mental health disease and diagnosis, psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, two semesters of intensive clinicals, and work under the guidance of community-based preceptors. Those who already have a master’s degree in nursing can apply to study and obtain a post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

The program is approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing (TBON), and once instruction begins, will be submitted for accreditation with the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

For more information on the program, contact Natalie Blankenship at