Amy Costner-Lark , DNP, APRN, FNP, Director of the family nurse practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs.

Oklahoma desperately needs more advanced practice nurses and two new programs soon to be offered by the Fran and Earl Ziegler University of Oklahoma College of Nursing will begin helping meet those needs.

Dr. Amy Costner-Lark, DNP, APRN-CNP, FNP is the director of the family nurse practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs.
She said the OU College of Nursing is currently accepting applications with a submission deadline of June 1 for the new programs which include a BSN-DNP in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Psychiatric Mental Health.
“I think this is an amazing opportunity to impact the mental health needs of Oklahoma,” Costner-Lark said. “There are such limited mental health services, especially in the rural communities of Oklahoma. This program will educate advanced practice nurses and give them the opportunity to provide much needed mental health services in Oklahoma.”
The BSN-DNP program is open to applicants with a BSN. Graduates will earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and be eligible to sit for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification.
The Post-Graduate certificate program is open to nurses who hold a Master of Science in Nursing and are seeking an additional board certification. All clinical rotations will be completed in Oklahoma and the college will be collaborating with mental health providers across Oklahoma to secure clinical sites.
The programs can be completed in 2-4 years and there are 640 clinical hours required. Graduates will be able to see patients across the lifespan from pediatric to geriatrics.
“No experience is required, and applicants can enter directly upon completing their BSN degree.” Costner-Lark noted that providers are seeing an increased number of mental health issues after the previous two years of COVID-19.
A recent story published in the New York Times highlighted America’s already surging mental health crisis prior to Covid, particularly in adolescents.
According to The Times, in 2019, 13 percent of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode, which is a 60 percent increase from 2007.
Emergency room visits by children and adolescents in that period also rose sharply for anxiety, mood disorders and self-harm. For people ages 10 to 24, suicide rates that were stable from 2000 to 2007, leaped nearly 60 percent by 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Mental health permeates every aspect of health care. Every visit I see as a nurse practitioner has some aspect of mental health involved.”
Costner-Lark said regardless of specialty, the DNP program is a gamechanger for nurses who want to practice as advanced practice nurses.
“The additional courses they take to earn a DNP really focus on quality improvement in healthcare. By focusing on high quality care, patients have better outcomes, costs are reduced, and healthcare becomes equitable for all populations.”

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