In the fall of 2022, Akron Children’s Advanced Practice Center and Behavioral Health Center collaborated to implement the hospital’s first APRN postgraduate fellowship program in pediatric psychiatry and behavioral health to fill an educational gap in transition to practice.
Psychiatric Mental Health APRNs are trained to treat the lifespan of patients, from pediatrics to adults, but they may have very little clinical experience working with kids upon graduation from their Master of Science in Nursing programs. The fellowship was developed to provide additional education and training with a pediatric focus to better prepare new graduates to care for pediatric patients at Akron Children’s.
Today, with the success of the program and to ensure the quality of its curriculum meets national standards, Akron Children’s is applying for the Advanced Practice Provider Fellowship Accreditation through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This is the premier accreditation for Advanced Practice Provider fellowship programs and will demonstrate excellence in transitioning APRNs and physician assistants into new practice settings.
“The goal is to help Akron Children’s recruit and retain high-quality candidates to expand mental health services across all of our locations throughout the region,” said Laura Abels, APRN-CNS, Akron Children’s advanced practice education coordinator. “There is a provider shortage in pediatric psychiatry across the country, and having a program that attracts talent to Akron Children’s is a great way to ensure we’re filling open positions and patients have access to the care they need.”
This one-year program, which aligns with the Advanced Practice Provider Fellowship Accreditation standards, provides evidence-based practice curriculum and support to prepare students for a career in pediatric psychiatry. Fellows receive the same onboarding and orientation experience that any new advanced practice provider at Akron Children’s receives, while being exposed to interprofessional collaboration with other pediatric specialties, such as adolescent medicine, speech and language therapy, and addiction services, that they may encounter in practice. Fellows are fully employed as members of Akron Children’s medical staff upon completion of the program.
In its first year, the program had 2 fellows and has grown to include 3 this year. Hear from our current fellows how the program is better preparing them for a successful career in pediatric psychiatry to improve patient care.
Fellow Brittany Gajarsky-Kottler, APRN-CNP
“I had such great experiences with both of them and witnessed firsthand how much support Akron Children’s offers,” she said. “There was such a collaborative feel between the counselors, psychologists, physicians, medical assistants and administration, and I wanted that in my place of work.”
So, she was thrilled to apply for the fellowship, because she wanted a well-rounded experience onboarding to a position. Through her time in the program, she has been able to rotate with many different departments in psychiatry and the hospital in general, while also building her own case load to best prepare her for the transition to practice.
To date, Brittany’s favorite aspect of the program has been her consult-liaison rotations headed by Laura Markley, MD, along with Kayli Deckert, DO, Michael Redovian, MD, and Elena Hissett, MD. She is thankful to learn more about blending the physical with the psychological in the care of patients.
“While we always consider the physical body in psychiatry, being on the hospital floor requires a new team approach and points of consideration,” she said. “Dr. Markley has been a wealth of knowledge with her background in addiction medicine, pediatric medicine and psychiatry.”
Fellow Taylor Marcum, MSN, APRN-CNP
Taylor began the fellowship program just 3 months ago and already can see how it’s preparing her for a successful career as an APRN in Behavioral Health. She has gained experience in several different departments and specialties that she will work closely with in providing patients referrals and resources to better facilitate their plans of care.
“This program has allowed me to start collaborating with the different specialties early on in my career working as a mental health provider,” she said.
Taylor points to recent experience, observing speech and language pathologists who complete autism testing for patients. She got to see firsthand what the specific testing looked like and how these therapists play a large role in facilitating the care she will provide her patients.
“My ability to see firsthand what these therapies entail has made me feel that much more comfortable in referring and discussing different resources that are available to my patients that may be struggling with neurobehavioral or learning conditions,” she said.
Taylor also values the number of educational experiences the program provides. In the upcoming months, she plans to attend didactic lectures and engage in research projects that she is hopeful will be beneficial in her knowledge and abilities as an advanced practice provider.
Fellow Cortney Griffin, APRN-CNP
What does Cortney enjoy most about the program? “I’ve enjoyed rotating through the specialties,” she said, “and I learned that I really love the Consult-Liaison service.”
For Cortney, the program has exposed her to the many areas of child psychiatry and what her role as an APRN would look like for each — giving her the opportunity to identify those areas that she enjoys working in most. In fact, the opportunity to build interprofessional relationships through didactics was a deciding factor in choosing this fellowship program.
“The biggest takeaway from this program is establishing a very strong foundation to start my career as an APRN,” she said. “As I transition from bedside nursing to an advanced practice provider, the support has been amazing, and I am confident in a successful transition to practice.”