Waldrop climbed ladder quickly in MHNP Residency Program

Made transition from resident in the School to VA co-director in less than three years
By Jimmy Creed

As a resident in the Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (MHNP) Residency Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing, Jessica Waldrop, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP, had a passion to learn more about the mental health needs of a growing veteran population in the United States.

As co-director of that same program now for the Birmingham Veterans Administration Medical Center (BVAMC), Waldrop puts that passion into practice at every opportunity, according to Professor and Chair, Department of Family, Community and Health Systems, Teena McGuinness, PhD, CRNP, PMHNP-BC, FAAN, co-director of the MHNP Residency Program for the School.

“Jessica is the consummate advocate for veterans,” McGuinness said. “If a veteran needs something she is going to make sure, if at all worldly possible, that they get it. We knew she was excellent, and now we’ve seen not only her clinical excellence but her leadership and passion as well.”

Waldrop JessicaJessica WaldropIn a remarkable turn, Waldrop went from being one of the first three residents when the School launched the MHNP Residency Program as part of the VA Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP) in fall 2013, to its point person on the VA side less than three years later.

“The VA is doing a lot of things right, and it is a pleasure to work with people like Jessica and others there on what is truly an interprofessional team,” McGuinness said. “Her advocacy is strong, and it is driven by her passion for the overall health of veterans, not just mental health.

“It’s got to be your mission to help people who suffer from mental illness. You just have to have a big heart for veterans, and all these residents have big hearts.”

In total, six residents in two cohorts have completed the program, which is designed to put more psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners into the VA pipeline. In addition to Waldrop, the first cohort included Kara Carter, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP, who is currently practicing as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in the Birmingham area, and Savannah Wilhite, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP, who is currently practicing as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Portland, Oregon, after first practicing in Utah upon completing her residency.

The second cohort was made up of Patrick Hosey, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP, a Navy veteran, Rachele Lipsky, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP, and Andrea Welsh MSN, CRNP, PMHNP. All three transitioned into full-time positions at the BVAMC after completing their residencies.

The program’s third cohort of three residents will finish in September and the fourth, which will have four residents, will start in October.

McGuinness is pleased that the program is working as it was designed to and also that more and more veterans are interested in joining its ranks. She noted that in addition to Hosey, two members of the current cohort are also veterans.

“We are cultivating a group of students to transition into the residency just as they are supposed to and get great expertise and clinical competence in caring for veterans,” McGuinness said. “That meets the goals of our VA partnership, and it also meets a huge societal need.  

“What we do really well is we help our residents understand veteran-centric care. If you don’t know what the challenges are that veterans face, it is very hard to help them, and our students understand those challenges.”

McGuinness is also proud that those like Waldrop who complete the MHNP Residency Program aren’t just serving as primary mental health providers, but in many cases they act as care transition coordinators as well to tailor levels of care to what specific patients need.

“It means a lot to know we are improving care for veterans,” McGuinness said. “I love working with these students. They are doing great things, and they make me so proud. I am fortunate to play a role in their education and to see them be so successful.”

Read 8299 times Last modified on May 24, 2016

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