Community Healthcare: 4 Tips for Hiring with Behavioral Health in MindMental and behavioral health conditions are strongly related to many risk behaviors for chronic diseases and substance abuse, as well as to the occurrence, treatment, and course of chronic diseases like asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression alone is the leading cause of illness and disability across the world.

WHO estimates that more than 300 million people live with depression and stated that the “lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives” in a March 2017 release. And to make matters worse, the supply of trained psychiatrists can’t keep up with demand.

In its report The Psychiatric Shortage: Causes and Solutions, the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) finds that “with projected gaps in the psychiatrist workforce needed to meet demand expected to widen, other professionals will play an increasingly critical role in ensuring greater access to psychiatric prescribing.”

Healthcare recruiters need to help their organizations hire employees across all disciplines to help identify and address critical community and behavioral health issues.

Here are four things to look for when recruiting for a variety of clinical positions to build a more Patient-Centered Workforce®  made up of individuals who are sensitive to crucial behavioral health issues:

1.  Experience in a community or behavioral health practice

Regardless of a role’s primary function, include a preference for direct experience in a community health setting or in a behavioral health group in the job postings. Candidates with prior experience in and an understanding of behavioral health issues are more sensitive to patients’ needs.

In addition, consider implementing behavioral assessments into your recruiting process to help you identify the key competencies (like compassion, teamwork, and flexibility), that are necessary to succeed in post-acute care environments, such as behavioral health. By asking behavioral interview questions, you’ll be objectively uncovering a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses — improving service excellence and only hiring those who align with your organization’s mission.

2.  Special licenses and certificates for nurses

According to the NCBH report, nurses are particularly valuable when treating patients with co-occurring medical conditions. Nursing staff “can effectively liaise with primary care and specialty providers around care coordination involving more complex medication interventions.” When hiring clinical nurse practitioners and registered nurses, seek out candidates licensed to diagnose, treat, order tests, and prescribe medication to patients.

Also, consider those who have completed specialized certificate programs such as the Psychiatric-Mental Health or Community Health RN-BC certification programs from the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC). For nurses and clinicians already on staff, partner with your organization’s organizational development team and suggest that they incorporate behavioral health-specific education into their mandatory training modules delivered through your learning management system.

3.  Physician assistants with additional training

Though their scope of practice varies from state to state, physician assistants (PAs) “have a well-established collaborative practice model with physicians, lending themselves well to team-based and integrated behavioral health models,” according to the NCBH report.

Seek out candidates with post-graduate training or fellowships in psychiatry. The number of PAs with psychiatric training will grow exponentially from 1,033 today to 125,847 in 10 years’ time, says the report.

4.  Psychiatric pharmacists with an expanded scope of practice

Board-certified psychiatric pharmacists help manage multiple medications for complex patients and in team-based care. Though their scope of practice differs by state, clinical pharmacists within the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are credentialed to the same level as nurse practitioners. When hiring pharmacists, look for candidates with the certification to order referrals, labs, or consults.

Improving your organization’s ability to identify and treat behavioral health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse will be critical to improving patient outcomes. Use these tips to recruit and retain healthcare talent familiar with behavioral health conditions to lead to better overall community health.



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Margot Carmichael Lester

About Margot Carmichael Lester

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based freelance business journalist who has been covering healthcare and staffing for more than 20 years. She also writes about moviemaking for the International Cinematographers Guild, specializing in action cinema. Margot co-authored the award-winning teen writing book Be a Better Writer with her husband, Steve Peha. She earned her BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a rabid Tar Heel basketball fan.