Thank You Psychiatrists!


May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While it is great to recognize and educate everyone on the issue of mental health, I want to take a moment to recognize and thank the psychiatrists and other mental health professionals for all they do under what can be very tough circumstances. My comments are focused on psychiatrists because my team of risk managers has the most interaction with psychiatrists. Specifically, just last year, my risk managers handled 2,902 calls to our consultation service and assisted our insured psychiatrists with 3,663 risk management issues. We also interacted with more than 2,400 psychiatrists in our live risk management presentations. We know the issues being endured by psychiatrists.

The first set of issues are those shared by all physicians – coding changes, decreased reimbursement, the push to purchase electronic health records (and in some states, e-prescribing systems), and increased regulation (such as HIPAA), just to name a few.

But there’s an additional set of issues unique to the specialty of psychiatry for which I want to express my appreciation for psychiatrists. They take care of patients who often lack insight and suffer disorganized thinking and speech. They treat patients with personality disorders who may act in ways that are counterproductive to treatment. They treat those at risk for violence to others. They treat those at risk for suicide. And when events take a worrisome turn – such as the patient in crisis who needs hospitalization but manages to convince emergency department staff to release him, or the patient at risk of hurting herself who doesn’t quite meet the criteria for involuntary commitment – psychiatrists lose sleep worrying about the safety of their patients.

So, for caring for your patients despite all of these challenges, I say THANK YOU!

Donna Vanderpool, MBA, JD – Vice President
As Vice President of Risk Management, Ms. Vanderpool is responsible for the development and implementation of PRMS’s risk management services for The Psychiatrists’ Program. Ms. Vanderpool has developed expertise in the areas of HIPAA and forensic practice, and has consulted, written and spoken nationally on these and other healthcare law and risk management topics. She most recently wrote a chapter concerning the risks of harm to forensic experts for Robert L. Sadoff, MD’s book Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychiatry: Minimizing Harm, (Feb. 2011/Wiley). Ms. Vanderpool received her undergraduate degree from James Madison University, and her MBA and JD from George Mason University. Prior to joining PRMS in 2000, Ms. Vanderpool practiced criminal defense law, taught business and legal courses as an adjunct faculty member at a community college and spent eight years managing a general surgical practice in Virginia.

This blog has also been cross-posted on LinkedIn.