ST. LOUIS -- Psychiatric nurses offer a missing and critical point of view in treating adolescents in foster care who have mental health issues, an instructor at Saint Louis University School of Nursing found.
"Adding a mental health nurse to the treatment team would be ideal. He or she could bring a much-needed medical perspective to caring for teens in foster care who have psychiatric disorders. Child welfare workers and social workers don't have the specific training they need to track health problems," said Julie Bertram, MSN, who also is lead author of the article.
"In addition, there is a national shortage of child psychiatrists, and nurses could be a bridge to quality care because they're able to help social workers, case managers, foster families and patients navigate the system. If we invest the time and effort into education and holistically managing the health of troubled teens, it likely would be worth it in the long-run."
Bertram's work, which appeared in the December issue of the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, described her role on a treatment team that studied foster youth and chronicled reactions to her involvement from case workers and teens. J. Curtis McMillen, Ph.D., professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, was the principal investigator of the study and hired Bertram as a nurse consultant.
Mental illness is a major problem for children in foster care. Three-quarters have suffered serious traumas such as sexual abuse or mistreatment. Typically one or both parents have histories of mental illness and substance abuse.
Not surprisingly, teens in foster care receive mental health services at a very high rate. Their use of medications for psychiatric problems is up to five times the rate of young people who are not in foster care, and many take multiple different drugs.
They frequently change psychiatrists as they move between homes, some
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Saint Louis University