The Crucial Role of Behavioral Health Clinicians

behavioral health patients happy and jumping in air

Behavioral health clinicians (BHCs) provide supportive and direct services to patients suffering from mental and other behavioral health crises. BHCs include psychiatric-mental health (PMH) registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), who represent the second largest group of behavioral health professionals in the United States. BHCs often provide consultation and training to other clinicians, paraprofessionals, and family caretakers; support the implementation of positive behavioral interventions; and provide mental health services at counseling centers, in patients' homes, on-site in hospitals, and in the community. PMH nurses are certified registered nurses with psychiatric expertise who improve the well-being of their patients primarily via prevention and education. 

PMH nurses provide the crucial service of assisting primary care providers with diagnosing psychiatric conditions and developing and implementing treatment plans. To provide effective, comprehensive mental health care, a team of PMH nurses, APRNs, and primary care providers must work together. BH nurses examine, assess, educate, and support individuals and families dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues. 

Alleviating the Pressure of Increasing Workloads

Healthcare professionals across the board are increasingly grappling with excessive workloads as a result of accommodating greater patient populations in shorter visit periods. All the while, there has been a great deal of emphasis on healthcare delivery methods that fit the "triple goal": patient satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and lower cost. Personalizing care plans based on individual patient complexity in the primary care setting is considerably difficult in the context of these demands, with around one in every four primary care patients presenting with multi-morbidity and up to half fulfilling criteria for a psychiatric condition. As a result, new primary care models must consider the major influence of behavioral health issues on the complexity and intensity of care. Integrating behavioral health providers into primary care teams has been shown to improve provider responsiveness to patients with complicated clinical needs. The inclusion of BHCs on primary care teams may also reduce stress and improve the quality of life for primary care doctors, associated specialist care providers, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and other healthcare team members.

Improving Patient Outcomes

By concentrating on holistic approaches to treatment, behavioral health clinicians can also assist the efforts of the primary care team to encourage mental health-enhancing behaviors, assess and address behaviors linked with health risks, and enhance pain management and pain-related outcomes. A major allocation of primary care clinicians' clinical time is spent managing chronic medical disorders, primarily through medication. However, if patients engage in harmful health behaviors that contribute to illness development or are medication non-adherent, medication treatment will not be effective in changing the course of these diseases. Behavioral health specialists deliver first-line evidence-based behavioral change interventions such as motivational interviewing and cognitive and behavioral interventions that support patient-directed lifestyle changes. These approaches have the potential to improve patient self-management, reduce the frequency and length of clinic visits, and act in tandem with holistic health plans to ensure that medication, therapy, and positive behavioral changes are integrated to optimize patient care. 

Enhancing Patient-Provider Relationships 

Due to their high level of expertise in understanding interpersonal transactional processes, behavioral health clinicians are perfectly positioned to improve primary care team members’ individual and team functioning. Though difficult patient-provider encounters have traditionally been considered as being predominantly driven by patient characteristics, there is a growing appreciation for the significance of reciprocal processes in the patient-provider dyad. Behavioral health physicians can collaborate with primary care providers to develop patient care methods that improve communication and allow for more patient- and family-centered interactions. These methods could involve focusing on cultural issues influencing patient health attitudes, behavior, and interactions with healthcare providers. Behavioral health providers can also assist the team in identifying systemic problems that may jeopardize effective patient-provider relationships (such as different perspectives about treatment plans), preventing breaches in patient-provider alliances and repairing such breakdowns when they arise.

Opportunities for Behavioral Health Clinicians

Are you a behavioral health nurse looking for per diem work? Nursa’s healthcare staffing app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. It is an application that aids hospitals, healthcare facilities, and medical campuses address shortages, gaps, unfilled assignments, PRN shifts, and per diem contracts. It is an excellent tool for nurses to discover a new place, make additional money, and gain new knowledge and skills, regardless of whether they are local, new, experienced, or traveling.

Alternatively, if you are a newly graduated nurse interested in learning more about behavioral health, continue to our ultimate guide on behavioral health nursing or browse other nursing specialties here.

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