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A Need to Meet the Need

An elderly man looks at a pill bottle in his hand while sitting across the table from a doctor in the doctor's office. He appears to be making a decision about it.

Dr. Barbara Sartell sees the patient, not just the problem.

The idea that it is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has, is credited often to Sir William Osler (1849–1919), one of the founding physicians of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and the inventor of residency programs and bedside clinical training for medical students.

Dr. Barbara SartellDr. Osler’s wisdom rings true for Dr. Sartell, a nurse practitioner and professor in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at WilmU’s College of Health Professions. “The quote embodies the need to really get to know the person you are treating,” she says, “as this can greatly affect any treatment you can provide. The best providers out there understand the patient as a person.”

Seeing the person inside the patient is key to her interest in geriatric psychiatry, an interest she’s expanded with recent academic and clinical achievements. In December of 2019, she completed a Post-Master’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certificate through the University of New Hampshire and passed the national board certification exam for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner credential.

The year-long course of study trains nurse practitioners to evaluate and provide mental health care to patients, to communicate the risks and benefits of treatment options, and to advocate for the medical and legal rights of patients and their families. It includes in-person residencies during which students discuss case studies and demonstrate their diagnostic interviewing skills.

As WilmU’s only full-time faculty member to hold the PMHNP-BC credential, Dr. Sartell plans to apply her accomplishment toward teaching courses in WilmU’s Post-MSN Nurse Practitioner graduate certificate — which offers a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner concentration — and toward the patients she helps to treat at local long-term and rehabilitation care facilities.

“There is a large, unmet need in the mental health spectrum of health care,” she says. “As our population lives longer, it stands to reason that we need to meet the mental health needs of aging patients, in order for them to enjoy that increased length of time and experience a meaningful existence.”

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