Scholarship Helps Psychiatric Nursing Students Cross Finish Line Faster

April 29, 2019
Each of the six students in the new Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program received scholarships. (Clockwise from upper left: Dionna McFerrin, Amy Heidenreich, Herbert Raasch, Nicole Welter, Timothy Kalmer, and Paula O’Hearn Ulch)

“It is heartbreaking to watch a person who is vulnerable enough to seek help be told that the next available behavioral health appointment is months away,” says Paula O’Hearn Ulch, one of six students enrolled in the College of Nursing’s new Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.

From her professional experience as an advanced-practice, community-based nurse with Aurora Health Care, Paula has learned firsthand the practical consequences of nursing shortages within the area of mental health. “I work with chronically ill adults who are high utilizers of health care, federally insured, lacking in finances, social support and knowledge, marginalized, and mentally ill. Without appropriate mental health treatment, their efforts to navigate a health system and commit to health/medication management are futile and the efforts of the health system to curtail costs and utilization related to chronic illness, are inadequate. Despite the recognized need, access to behavioral health services is scarce.”

Wisconsin physician Adel Korkor also witnessed this need during his 37 years in practice. To combat it, he helped establish the College’s new program and created the Adel B. Korkor M.D. Scholarship to assist students. “Lack of affordable access for mental health care is a key concern, and Milwaukee suffers a great deal from the same shortage,” he says. “Through the program I helped establish and provided scholarships, the shortages could be addressed. UWM is a leader in our community in providing some of the highest quality education all across the nursing field.”

This one-year certificate program, which is a post-master’s option for nurse practitioners, can be done entirely online, allowing students to continue to work while pursuing this advanced training. “As we know, the majority of our graduates remain in Wisconsin, so these graduates will be able to help meet the immense need for mental health services in the state,” explains Dean Kim Litwack. “Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners can diagnose, provide care and counseling, and medication management to individuals across the lifespan.”

Thanks to Adel Korkor and an anonymous donor, all six of this year’s cohort received scholarships to the program. Paula explains the significance of this help: “This generous scholarship will afford me the opportunity to become certified as a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, and to serve as an access point to the mental health services that are so lacking in our community, thereby increasing access to behavioral health services for the chronically ill, marginalized people I have been privileged to serve.”