Mental Health Nurse Decrease in the Big Country

Shortage in Mental Health Workers Impacts Big Country

ABILENE, Texas (KRBC)- Across the state there has been a shortage in mental health workers, and in the Big Country, this has impacted a local hospital.

"Sometimes we have more people that need us than nurses to cover the shifts." Said Stacey Sanford, Oceans Behavioral Hospital Administrator.

For the past two years, Sanford told KRBC that it has been difficult finding nurses to work in mental health.

Although mental health issues are becoming less taboo to the public, Dr. Pearl Merritt of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center still believes the community isn't completely aware of the issue.

"You know, people might have high blood pressure, or diabetes and they don't mind telling people, but usually people don't say, that they have a mental illness, and so that stigma is still there." Explained Dr. Merritt.

Being the only provider for more than 40 counties in the Big Country, the Oceans Behavioral Hospital continues to see more people throughout the years.

"Our cliental depends on us, we're here you know 24/7 and we just have to have the nurses to help take care of these folks." Added Sanford.

With the continued amount of patients Sanford believes that it's only going to rise.

"Which means that we really need to be diligent in recruiting the nurses, teaching them in school, exposing them to mental health, and psychiatric nursing."

Dr. Merritt says that over 50 percent of the current are over the age of 55.

"So, when they retire, who is left to take care of the mental health needs?" Questioned Dr. Merritt.

The Texas Tech Health Sciences Center now offers a nurse practitioning track for psychiatric and mental care.

"We did start a nurse practitioners track where there is a psychiatric field that the students can learn more about."


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