The spring semester turns the page to a new chapter in former Assistant Professor of Nursing Gaye Douglas’ education and nursing career.
As the fall semester came to a close, Douglas accepted a position to teach undergraduate nursing courses at the University of South Carolina (USC) starting in the spring semester of 2017.
While teaching at USC, she will be completing a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner post- master’s certificate.
Douglas decided to apply for the post-master’s certificate out of her interest in psychiatric and mental health and a need in the state for mental health providers.
“There is a shortage of mental health providers in S.C., and I know that nurse practitioners are a great fit for providing mental health services,” Douglas said. “Just as there is a shortage of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, there is an even more desperate need for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner faculty.”
Douglas will be able to treat a larger number of disorders through receiving the post- master’s certificate, as well as teaching higher level mental health nursing courses.
“Although I now treat patients with mild psychiatric mental health disorders now such as general anxiety and depression, I want to be able to provide the counseling needed for treatment and be able to treat a larger number of disorders,” Douglas said. “It is very difficult, and really almost impossible, for a school-aged child with ADHD, depression, anxiety and other disorders, to get the necessary treatment needed to allow them to function to the highest extent of his or her ability. I hope that, by the time I retire, this is no longer a priority because all those needs are met.”
Upon receiving her post- master’s certificate, Douglas plans to begin teaching within the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program at USC.
Douglas said she hopes to train nurses in caring for patients through Telehealth, a program where patients can be seen by specialists through a video chat that allows individuals without access to healthcare to receive necessary care.
“This is something I’ve been interested in for many years,” Douglas said. “I will also have the opportunity to positively influence the growth of Telehealth in South Carolina.”
Douglas said Telehealth’s services will become commonplace in health care. The state has already invested millions to help the program.
Douglas got involved with Telehealth eight years ago to help meet the needs of students who did not have transportation to cities to receive specialized care.
“By chance I was at a meeting in Kingstree where I met Dr. Jimmy McElligott, an MUSC pediatrician and advocate for access to healthcare in rural communities,” Douglas said. “Through this partnership, I was able to offer telecounseling to students who had been exposed to the trauma of violence. The student would come to the health center and receive counseling through the Department of Psychology at MUSC.”
Since then, Douglas has continued her work with Telehealth part-time, working as Hope Health’s Telehealth coordinator. Hope Health has used Telehealth for patients with needs such as diabetic education, developmental pediatrics, HIV counseling and Hepatitis B and C counseling.
After teaching for four years, Douglas began working as a nurse in Johnsonville, S.C., for the school district in which she would later start a school- based health center.
“While working with Johnsonville school district, I realized how bad the healthcare shortage was in our area,” Douglas said. “I worked weekends in the ER at Lake City Hospital and I would see the same students on Saturday that I sent home sick on Wednesday. The ER is not the appropriate place for primary healthcare, but sometimes it is the only place.”
Douglas completed her doctorate in nursing and a few weeks later, FMU offered her a teaching position in the family nurse practitioner program.
“The move to USC from FMU will have its challenges,” Douglas said. “I love FMU, and it’s hard to leave. But I am a person of faith, and I feel very strongly led to make this move.”